A compassionate spy sos

Avalon Theatre Washington, DC


Dr. Anthony Eames

Historian, George Washington University

moderated by

Jason Dick

Editor-in-Chief, CQ Roll Call; Host, Political Theater podcast

A Compassionate Spy— Science, secrecy, and ethics in the Nuclear Age

This post-film discussion focuses on important issues about idealism, ownership of scientific progress, ethics, secrecy, and national security and politics in a dangerous world. The consequences of Hall’s actions continue to resonate today, and are as contentious and unanswerable as they were during the Cold War.

This event is part of our 2024 National Evening of Science on Screen.

Avalon Theatre Washington, DC

Film Synopsis

The incredible story of Manhattan Project scientist Ted Hall, who shared classified nuclear secrets with Russia.

    Recruited in 1944 as an 18-year-old Harvard undergraduate to be the youngest physicist on the Manhattan Project, Hall didn’t share his colleagues’ elation after the successful detonation of the world’s first atomic bomb. Increasingly concerned during 1944—with Germany clearly losing the war—that a U.S. post-war monopoly on such a powerful weapon could lead to nuclear catastrophe, he decided beginning that October to start passing key information about the bomb’s construction to the Soviet Union. After the war, at the University of Chicago, he met and married Joan, a fellow student with whom he shared a passion for classical music and socialist causes — and the explosive secret of his espionage. Living under a cloud of suspicion and years of FBI surveillance and intimidation, the pair raised a family while Ted refocused his scientific brilliance on groundbreaking biophysics research. A Compassionate Spy, two-time Oscar® nominee Steve James’ nuanced documentary, reveals the twists and turns of this real-life spy story, its profound impact on nuclear history, and the couple’s remarkable love and life together during more than 50 years of marriage.

    Photo credit: Magnolia Pictures

    About the Speaker

    Dr. Anthony Eames is a historian of nuclear technologies and Cold War geopolitics. In addition to teaching at GWU, he is a visiting fellow at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute. Eames earned his Ph.D. from Georgetown University in Transregional Nuclear History and holds an MA in Global and Comparative History jointly conferred by King’s College London and Georgetown University. His scholarship has appeared or is forthcoming in the Journal of Military History, Technology & Culture, War on the Rocks, among other publications. He has spoken widely on nuclear issues in both the United States and the United Kingdom and co-hosts a nuclear history podcast.

    Jason Dick, the Science on Screen program moderator, is the editor-in-chief of CQ Roll Call and the host of its Political Theater podcast. He has also worked at National Journal and for the AmeriCorps program, and is a former English teacher at the university and high school levels. A one-time screener for the SXSW Film Festival, he is a native of Arizona and lives on Capitol Hill.