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The Spy Who Wasn’t There: Uncovering the True Past of ‘Atomic Spy’ Arthur Adams
MRIC 2015/16

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The Spy Who Wasn’t There

Uncovering the True Past of ‘Atomic Spy’ Arthur Adams

Richard Spence

Professor, History
College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences

Presented with support of the Provost’s Office and University Honors Program


In 1935, Soviet military intelligence sent Artur Aleksandrovich Adams on a secret mission in the United States. Over the next decade, working as a technical engineer, Adams recruited and ran a spy ring whose tentacles reached from Washington to Los Alamos. In 1944, he gave Moscow critical information on the American super-secret Manhattan Project. Evading an FBI dragnet, he returned to the U.S.S.R., where he died in 1969, a forgotten man.

In fact, Adams’ work for the Soviet “secret services” began as early as 1918. An examination of available records reveals his constant re-invention of himself to disguise his clandestine work and even shows that he was less than honest with his Soviet superiors. Did “Arthur Adams” ever really exist at all, and if he didn’t, who was he?


Richard “Rick” Spence is a professor of history. He specializes in Russian, intelligence and military history, and his course offerings include Modern Espionage, Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, History of Secret Societies and the Occult in History. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from California State University, Bakersfield and master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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