A Professor on Stage

This last week, I was surfing the internet when I came across references to a play called Oppenheimer put on by the Royal Shakespeare Company in England. One of the characters in the play was J. Robert Oppenheimer’s young protégé, Giovanni Rossi Lomanitz. Thing is, Ross Lomanitz was one of my professors at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. Here he is as I knew him.


Huffington Post UK has a review of the play, which also includes a photo of actor Oliver Johnstone as Ross.

I took Modern Physics from Ross during my sophomore year. Not only that, but I met my wife in his class. A few years later, Ross’s wife Josephine would be one of the musicians at our wedding. Of course Ross was there as well. In addition to that Modern Physics class, I went on to take both undergraduate and graduate level quantum mechanics from Ross. I enjoyed his classes and got A’s in them.

As I mentioned, Ross himself was the student of J. Robert Oppenheimer. After World War II, he was summoned before Joseph McCarthy’s Senate Committee to testify about his ties to the Communist Party. Ross stated his loyalty to the United States and also pleaded his fifth amendment rights. The upshot was that he was blacklisted and could not get a job as a physicist for many years until he was hired at New Mexico Tech in 1962.

The Pirates of Sufiro As it turns out, not only was Ross a beloved physics teacher, he and his wife were also members of the first writer’s group I belonged to. Ross worked on a memoir of his post-McCarthy days. In the meantime, I worked on a story called “A Quiet Burning in the Darkness” which would ultimately become the first chapter of my novel The Pirates of Sufiro. Ross and Jo made comments that helped me shape the novel. What’s more, I’m sure the story of a pirate captain exiled from civilization and forming a society based on his own moral compass owes a lot to Ross.

Sadly, Ross passed away in 2003. I hope the play Oppenheimer will find its way over to the United States. It would be a chance to see Ross again, even if only through the lens of theater.

As for The Pirates of Sufiro, you can pick up a copy at Lachesis Publishing. The eBook is free, but if you want a real treat, pick up the paperback with its illustrations by Laura Givens.

18 comments on “A Professor on Stage

  1. Kenneth Silsbee says:

    A really great blog post! Thanks!

  2. ericamilesx says:

    I really enjoyed the way you described how art and science came together in these distinguished professors-turned-actors’ lives, and also in yours, since you were a technology student and creative writer and published author, as well. I loved the touch about Professor Ross’ wife appearing as a musician at your wedding!

  3. ericamilesx says:

    Reblogged this on authorericamilesblog and commented:
    I’d like to share with you an article by David Lee Summers, entitled “A Professor Onstage.” Note how Summers describes how art and science came together in his former, distinguished professors-turned-actors’ lives. These fascinating men were protégés of the famous J. Robert Oppenheimer, whose life story has just inspired a new play in the U.K.

  4. therailbaron says:

    Fascinating how seeing something on the Net recalled such personal memories. Now I know a bit more about you and that you have a science fiction book as well.

    • Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the article. I actually have four science fiction novels at this point. I’m thinking about going back and taking a fresh look at the other novels in the coming weeks. It’s been a while since I’ve discussed them.

  5. Don Brandvold says:

    Enjoyed your writing. Ross was a good friend and neighbor for many years.

  6. amovietheatregoer says:

    What a lovely post! According to what I read on Lomanitz, he must have been a nice man everyone liked. The play “Oppenheimer” was very good! As a reviewer told, Oliver Johnstone made Lomanitz a real treat. All top nocht actors in the cast actually. I wrote something myself if you’d like to read: http://amovietheatregoer.net/passion-for-theatre/2015-2/2015-04-23-oppenheimer-london/

  7. amovietheatregoer says:

    Reblogged this on A Movie-TheatreGoer and commented:
    This is a very lovely blog post on the late Rossi Lomanitz, with refer to the play “Oppenheimer”.

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