Joan Hinton was not a household name, but her work on the Manhattan project was historic. After earning her Ph.D. in physics in only two years, she was hand-picked to become a researcher on one of America's most stunning technological achievements - the development and production of an atomic bomb.
Then she had an attack of conscience. In her obituary in today's New York Times, she is quoted as telling National Public Radio, I did not want to spend my life figuring out how to kill people ... I wanted to figure out how to let people have a better life, not a worse life.
So, she became a philanthropist who devoted her life to finding the cure to diseases. Well, not quite: Dr. Hinton moved to China and became a devoted Maoist Communist. I'm not making this up.
According to the Times, "For the past 40 years, she worked on a dairy farm and an agricultural station outside Beijing, tending a herd of about 200 cows."
Did she regret her choice? Not in the least. The Times goes on to quote an interview she gave in 2008 to The Weekend Australian: "It would have been terrific if Mao had lived ... Of course I was 100 percent behind everything that happened in the Cultural Revolution it was a terrific experience."
Just how "terrific?" Minimally one million people died during the Cultural Revolution due to persecution by the infamous Red Guards. Religious persecution was intense, and the families of "running dogs" (Chinese whose devotion to Communism was deemed insufficient) were brutalized; there are even reports of the cannibalism of young children by some Red Guards.
In total, roughly 30 million Chinese (possibly as many as 70 million) died under Mao's reign from enforced starvation or outright murder.
Through it all, American born Dr. Hinton remained a devotee of Chairman Mao. In an interview with NBC News in 2004, journalist Catherine Rampell wrote that "Hinton gushes fervent praise for the Cultural Revolution, Maos mass mobilization of Chinese youth to criticize party officials, intellectuals and bourgeois values, from 1966 to 1976." Dr. Hinton even used archaic and ludicrous Maoist language to denounce the "renegades" and "capitalist roaders" - code terms for freedom-lovers who would not fully bend the knee to Beijing's dictators.
Dr. Hinton now faces the Judge of all the earth, not the beatific images of Mao Zedong with which she festooned her apartment. How sad. How very sad.