Tuxedo Park, by Jennet Conant, is one of the few non-technical books that guarantees an interesting read for the entire scientific community. Especially recommended for our audience of electronics hobbyists, electronic engineers, telecommunications engineers and physicists, Tuxedo Park is a surprising, inspiring and enriching book for anyone whose profession is related to the world of science. Actually, the whole title points in that direction:
1. The author of Tuxedo Park: Jennet Conant
Jennet Conant is an American journalist, with experience in media outlets such as Newsweek, specializing in the publication of books related to World War II.
Her status as the granddaughter of James Bryant Conant, initially a chemist and later president of Harvard during World War II, gives her an ideal family position with access to unique information about the protagonist of Tuxedo Park: Alfred Lee Loomis.
2. The protagonist of Tuxedo Park
2.1 Alfred Lee Loomis
Tuxedo Park tells the biography of Alfred Lee Loomis (1887-1975), an American tycoon with a very particular story.
Loomis was a truly intelligent and ingenious person. His estimates were always accurate. Along with his ability to control from start to finish the situations that life threw at him, he always left a mark on the people with whom he interacted.
2.2 Professional Career
He began his professional career on Wall Street, where he stood out and amassed an enormous fortune. In addition, he was able to foresee the crash of 1929, which allowed him to resist the Great Depression without putting his wealth at risk.
But Loomis’ great passion was science and physics. Although at first he combined his work on Wall Street with his scientific work, at a certain point he decided to stop increasing his already very high fortune to focus on his great passion.
2.3 Palace of Science
He bought a mansion in Tuxedo Park and turned it into a laboratory that he financed and where he worked with other illustrious scientists. So much so that Einstein himself referred to the laboratory as the Palace of Science.
Loomis not only worked and signed his own articles in prestigious publications, but also rubbed shoulders with the best scientists of his time. For example, he was a great friend of Nobel Laureate Ernest Lawrence, and helped him obtain funding for his highly advanced and expensive projects.
2.4 World War II
It was during World War II that Loomis made his most important contributions. Convinced from the outbreak of the war that the United States would eventually become involved, he lobbied politicians and the military to encourage military research as soon as possible. Thus he became the head of the highly secret Rad Lab at MIT. This institution developed the radar and radio navigation technology that won the war.
Although in the end almost all the credit was given to the atomic bomb and Project Manhatan, the reality is that radar won the war and the atomic bomb ended it.
2.5 Personal Life
Loomis was one of those geniuses with a not so “successful” social side. He was never interested in the high society events he was entitled to attend because of his position in the social ladder. Similarly, his relationship with his wife and children was not idyllic either. At one point the younger scientists he financed seemed more like his children than his biological ones.
He also went to great lengths to keep a low profile when it came to the scientific breakthroughs he himself was spearheading. Perhaps that is why Loomis never got the recognition he deserved.
3. Tuxedo Park Review
Tuxedo Park is a terrific book, which is sure to please our audience. The passages described in the book, explained in conjunction with Loomis’ biography, are interesting and surprising from beginning to end. Loomis lived through World War I and World War II. Thus both context and character give rise to a life and story worth telling and admiring.
The story spares no detail. But despite its highly biographical content it holds the reader’s attention and interest. Loomis’ quirky style and the parallel events taking place, both locally and internationally, make for a unique story that encourages further reading. In addition, Conant goes to great lengths to provide the scientific details necessary to satisfy the curiosity of the more technical readers.
As a main difficulty or discomfort when reading the book, one can comment on the high number of characters mentioned in the book. At some point it is difficult to recognize the characters that appear more sporadically. This is to be expected since the book is primarily a biography. Fortunately there is an index at the end of the book that allows you to find characters, elements and situations alphabetically. This way the thread of the story can be retrieved if necessary.
4. Lessons Learned with Tuxedo Park
The events, occurrences and anecdotes narrated remind our audience of some lessons to which many will already be accustomed, but which should not be forgotten. They are discussed below.
Part of the miseries of scientific work consists in accepting that no matter how good our work is, there may always be someone better than us. And in engineering and science, only the best tends to survive, undermining in a certain sense the previous work, or fostering a permanent competitiveness.
But this characteristic of our work should not translate into unreasonable self-demand. Because demanding too much can also have dramatic consequences, as we see in some passages of the book. It could be said that this story encourages us to be proud of our good work and effort, as long as we are honest with ourselves, but without demanding so much as to put our own health at risk.
4.2 Team Work
Some of the events in the book take place during wars. In this context, it is surprising to see the technological achievements and advances that are made in a relatively short time.
In this way, it becomes clear once again that commitment and teamwork is the only option for complex projects to prosper quickly. This serves as a reminder to us not to be confrontational and to contribute to team spirit with our colleagues. It is the best strategy to achieve common goals in the most efficient way.
Some events narrated in the book encourage us to value our abilities to work even in subjects we are not proficient in. In this regard, the way nuclear physicists become microwave engineers at MIT’s Rad Lab during World War II is inspiring. It makes us see that we engineers and physicists can change specialties quickly and successfully if we have the right motivation.
4.4 Investment in Science
And finally, a piece of advice, or rather a request, to successful financiers.
Loomis teaches us that there are motivations beyond money itself. Investing in science, either time or money or both, is personally enriching and also ensures prosperity for humanity and for the economy in general. Something from which, without a doubt, we all benefit.
5. Tuxedo Park Conclusions
This book represents a unique opportunity to learn about the life and history of a man as peculiar and relevant as Loomis.
With his lights and shadows, Loomis made indisputable contributions to humanity. It is worth mentioning the technological advances in radar, which tipped the balance towards the Allied side in World War II.
Due to his extreme discretion and the order of events, he did not get the recognition he deserved. In a certain sense, reading this book does justice because it allows to promote and grant the character some of the glory that was not conceded to him during his lifetime.
Additional books by the author, shown in the following link, may also be of interest.
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