This 1988 Bulletin article by Deborah Blum shares what happened when a head of X-ray laser research unintentionally became a whistleblower after finding out powerful insiders were outing a dubious program as a key to the “technological race for the prize of the planet.”
This article appears here as part of our 2023 summer archive dive, which resurfaces a timeless Bulletin article each week.
Roy Woodruff is no longer shut away in “Gorky West;’ the windowless cubbyhole at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory where he was sent in disgrace. He now has a respectable job directing treaty verification programs at the laboratory and once again has an office with a view. It is certainly the most visible, and maybe the first, change at the nuclear weapons laboratory in California’s golden-hilled Livermore Valley since Woodruff, in a failed attempt to keep the lab’s Star Wars program honest, sparked a federal investigation into lab politics late last year.
Perhaps the impact would have been less if Woodruff had not been such a surprise. As a career weapons scientist who still favors a nuclear deterrent, he was an unlikely whistleblower from the start. Woodruff represented an inside voice of protest supported from within the weapons establishment by Donald Kerr, the former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Richard Wagner, once the top nuclear weapons official in the U.S. Defense Department …
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