Testimony of Luntz

An intriguing minor personality in the 1950s was Jerome D. Luntz, editor of the new trade journal Nucleonics. Until the British, egged on by Christopher Hinton, established their own trade journal later in the decade, Nucleonics was avidly read around the globe by anyone remotely interested in the new science and technology. Luntz’s editorials were bold and unrestrained. He was as much a commentator, in the modern sense, as a standard journalist.

Later, Nucleonics became far more corporatized and bland, and my own researches noticed the departure of Luntz from the scene. I always wondered what became of him. Googling him recently, I came across a funeral parlour obituary which revealed that he died at age 89 a decade ago, and that his disappearance from Nucleonics was due to moving up in the ranks of publisher McGraw-Hill, becoming more a businessman, before establishing a consultancy in his late 60s. In other words, his “exit from the scene,” in a sense, did not reflect his own loss of interest in nuclear matters, but simply reflected the maturation of the trade journal itself.

The reason I did a modicum of further research recently on Luntz was that I took a look at one of the many mammoth publications of hearings conducted by the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, a strangely powerful bipartisan committee over the 40s, 50s, 60s, and into the 70s. I had collected a 688-page PDF of JCAE hearings (one of many such) over half a month in 1957. I had skimmed the PDF and decided I need take no notes, that while this document might prove invaluable for some historian, for me it added nothing.

Now I felt drawn to Mr. Luntz. His testimony to the committee takes up 24 pages and regrettably didn’t offer me any new gems. However, I did enjoy two statements, the first being:

I would broadly divide the foreign market into two categories: the ready and the unready. The distinguishing features of these groupings are knowledgeability about atomic energy, in general, and more important an ability to take advantage of nuclear power. In connection with the latter, it is now quite clear that nuclear power will be significant first in the industrialized areas of the world rather than in the underdeveloped segments. In the free world, the ready market consists of the countries in Western Europe and Japan. The unready consists of the other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. … One characteristic of the ready market is that it will exist as a potential market for American companies for only a very short time, perhaps several years. After that, there is no question that competitive industries will develop in those countries.

Luntz was spot on, in accord with my own research. Later, referring to England’s brand spanking new plant Calder Hall, which Queen Elizabeth had opened to great global fanfare six months earlier, he said:

For example, at a symposium that the British held on November 22 and 23 in London, at which time they released for the first time a considerable body of information on Calder Hall, I talked with representatives of a number of foreign countries who were present at that symposium. They came there not to find out about Calder Hall, but where the British expected to go from there. Calder Hall, they recognized, was obsolete. It was obsolete, I think, before it came into operation.

This would have been a red rag to the JCAE, which was paranoid that Calder Hall signified that USA was somehow “behind” the United Kingdom. Luntz put the matter so succinctly and intelligently!


JCAE. 1957a. Development, Growth, and State of the Atomic Energy Industry: Hearings Before the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, Congress of the United States, Eighty-fifth Congress, First Session: Section 202, Statutory Hearings. USGPO, Washington, D.C. https://exhibits.stanford.edu/atomic-energy/catalog/vy837pp4192 (accessed Nov. 20, 2023), pp. 512, 521.