Los Angeles police commission president Steven Soboroff has acquired the typewriter of Samuel T. Cohen, inventor of the neutron bomb, for his collection. Soboroff famously collects the typewriters of the celebrated or accomplished, as we have reported before. Cohen's is the 30th added to the collection, which recently was on exhibit at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills.
Cohen was a UCLA-trained physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II, joined RAND and designed the neutron while a consultant for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He died at his home in Los Angeles in 2010. The New York Times wrote then that "unlike J. Robert Oppenheimer and Edward Teller, the respective fathers of the atomic and hydrogen bombs, Mr. Cohen was not well known outside government and scientific circles, although his work for years influenced the international debate over the deployment and potential uses of nuclear arms."
While doubters questioned the usefulness, logic and ethics of killing people and sparing property, Mr. Cohen called his bomb a “sane” and “moral” weapon that could limit death, destruction and radioactive contamination, killing combatants while leaving civilians and towns unscathed. He insisted that many critics misunderstood or purposely misrepresented his ideas for political, economic or mercenary reasons.
A specialist in the radiological effects of nuclear weapons, he relentlessly promoted the neutron bomb for much of his life, writing books and articles, conferring with presidents and cabinet officials, taking his case to Congressional committees, scientific bodies and international forums. He won many converts, but ultimately failed to persuade the United States to integrate the device into its tactical nuclear arsenal.
The Reagan administration developed but never deployed the weapons in the 1980s. France, Israel and the Soviet Union were believed to have added versions of the bomb to their arsenals. Western military planners rejected their use in the Vietnam War and regarded them only as a possible deterrent to superior Soviet tank forces in Europe. But the end of the cold war obviated even that purpose.
In January Soboroff acquired the typewriter of the late actor Rudolph Valentino.