Jennet Conant has written a book, Tuxedo Park, about Alfred Lee Loomis who lived during the "roaring twenties" and, as a former Wall Street tycoon, played an important semi secret role during World War II as a scientist. Loomis was an extremely wealthy man who had used his law degree in financial investment activities. This multi millionaire had been wise enough to see the 1929 crash coming and escaped the disaster with his fortune intact. He went through the depression indulging in hobbies of the super rich. He raced his own America’s Cup yacht against the Vanderbilt’s and the Astor’s. He purchased Hilton Head Island in South Carolina as his personal private game reserve.
He was a brilliant man with a huge interest in science. Powerful, handsome and enormously wealthy, Loomis led what was a double life. He created a sophisticated scientific lab hidden in his massive stone castle home known as Tuxedo Park. Scientists were employed there doing scientific research which he was interested in and which he participated in. In fact, he spent his days brokering huge financial transactions and his weekends working with the scientists at his estate. He published numerous papers in scientific journals, but avoided the lime light giving credit to others and freely investing his fortune to subsidize scientific research.
He suddenly quit his Wall Street work to devote full time to his scientific interests. His Tuxedo Park laboratory became a meeting place of the leading minds of the time including Albert Einstein and Enrico Fermi. As World War II became more and more likely to involve America he spent a personal fortune pioneering research into radar detection systems. Working with the British scientists his team developed a radar system that changed the course of the war because of its superiority to anything the enemy had available. He also worked with Nobel Price winners in development of the atomic bomb. Loomis influenced FDR to spent millions on the project which led to the development of the bomb. He spent his own fortune as well and created a lab at MIT by getting it started with a half million dollar donation. His personal laboratory at Tuxedo Park crew into a team of thousands with a monthly expenditure of over a million dollars during the war. After the war, he received many awards for his work including the Presidential Medal of Merit, the highest award a civilian could receive, but he kept a very low profile and avoided any publicity he could. His role in helping America is therefore, largely unknown.
He also went through a bitter divorce from his wife who suffered from mental depression and married a friend’s wife with whom Loomis had a long affair which caused a huge scandal at the time. This drove Loomis and his wife into seclusion after being ostracized by New York and East Hampton society.
This wealthy, brilliant man played a role in developing both radar and the atomic bomb which was something I had never heard before reading this book.