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#143 Alfred Lee Loomis (the most interesting man you've never heard of)
September 6th, 2020 | E143

What I learned from reading Tuxedo Park : A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science That Changed the Course of World War II by James Conant.


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[0:01] Few men of Loomis’ prominence and achievement have gone to greater lengths to foil history. 

[0:17]  Independently wealthy, iconoclastic, and aloof, Loomis did not conform to the conventional measure of a great scientist. He was too complex to categorize—financier, philanthropist, society figure, physicist, inventor, dilettante—a contradiction in terms. 

[0:42] He rose to become one of the most powerful figures in banking in the 1920s. 

[4:42] The smile was a velvet glove covering his iron determination to get underway without any lost motion. 

[5:29] He would dedicate himself to overcoming Germany’s scientific advantage. 

[7:19] He had amassed a substantial fortune, which allowed him to act as a patron. 

[8:06] Loomis was a bit stiff, with the bearing of a four-star general in civilian clothes. He was strong and decisive.  

[10:15]  He was enthusiastic about American know-how and was not inclined to sit idly by until the miliary finally determined it was time to take action—particularly if just catching up with the Germans proved to be a monumental task

[13:30] He carried himself with composure, but his politeness was merely a habit; he was preoccupied

[16:56]When duty called he helped reinvent modern warfare.

[20:21] He became an enthusiastic champion of the new armored tanks. He became such an expert on tank construction, he built a scaled-down model in his garage in order to see if he could make further improvements in the design. When his cousin came to visit, Loomis rolled into the rail station in his light armored tank to meet the train, kicking up dust and causing quite a scene. 

[26:54]  Loomis would later maintain that everybody on the Street knew the crash was coming, the only difference was that he and Thorne refused to bank on its being inevitably delayed. 

[31:20] After the shock of the sinking of the Lusitania by a German submarine in 1915, Thomas Edison said that Americans were “as clever at mechanics as any people in the world” and could defeat any “engine of destruction.:” Edison had advocated for preparedness without provocation, and to Loomis, it seemed as wise a course in the present as it had been then

[40:58] For the next four years, he would drive himself and his band of physicists almost without break to develop the all-important radar warning systems based on the magnetron.  

[43:44] He drew a striking parallel between the present international situation and the financial situation prior to the crash. He said that now people are asking him when we will enter the war just as in 1928 his friends were asking him when the stock market crash was coming. He said that in both cases such a question is quite beside the point. He said that once a person admitted a stock market crash was coming a prudent individual will immediately get out fo the stock market and not consider when the crash is coming and thereby try to hang on and make some more profits. Likewise, at the present time it is of secondary importance when we will get in; of first importance is the admission that we are going to get in, and our action accordingly should be that of preparing just as though we were actually in the war! 

[48:55]  Loomis had one important characteristic. His ability to concentrate completely on the chief objective, even at the cost of neglecting matters that appear to other people to be of equal importance

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