Half Life: The Divided Life of Bruno Pontecorvo, Physicist or Spy, by Frank Close

A biography of a secretive scientist comes with a cast worthy of a le Carré novel, says Jon Turney

At the midpoint of the last century, memories of two world wars were receding but the mutual suspicions of two great power blocs threatened a third. When Bruno Pontecorvo, a physicist at the UK government’s secret atomic laboratory at Harwell in Oxfordshire, disappeared while holidaying in Europe in the summer of 1950, the press opted for the simplest explanation:

he was a spy who had fled to the Soviet Union. He surfaced five years later in Moscow, explaining his abrupt departure as a result of misgivings about work on nuclear weapons, along with harassment by the authorities. But the spy story still seemed a better fit.

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Source: Times Higher Education