Physicist and polymath, 'father of the atom bomb' J. Robert Oppenheimer became the most famous scientist of his generation. One of the iconic figures of the 20th century and the embodiment of modern scientific man's Faustian compact, Oppenheimer confronted the moral consequences of scientific progress. Already a notable young physicist before WWII ...
Physicist and polymath, 'father of the atom bomb' J. Robert Oppenheimer became the most famous scientist of his generation. One of the iconic figures of the 20th century and the embodiment of modern scientific man's Faustian compact, Oppenheimer confronted the moral consequences of scientific progress. Already a notable young physicist before WWII, during the race to split the atom, 'Oppie' galvanized an extraordinary team of international scientists while keeping the FBI at bay.Years later, haunted by Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Oppenheimer became a staunch opponent of plans to develop the hydrogen bomb. It was a battle he was to lose, faced by powerful advocates for massive nuclear profusion. In response, the US Atomic Energy Commission and the FBI worked behind the scenes to have a hearing find that Oppenheimer could not be trusted with America's nuclear secrets."American Prometheus" is a compelling portrait of a brilliant, ambitious and flawed man, and of the major events of the twentieth century. It is at once biography and history, and essential to our understanding of our recent past - and our future choices.
I read another book entitled, "Brotherhood of the Bomb: The Tangled Lives and Loyalties of Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence, and Edward Teller". This book I did not enjoy, for it was both an American tragedy and an outrage. I didn't want to read the other book. I disposed of both books.
Jun 16, 2007
A great way to get interested in biographies
Among a raft of biographies that depend almost comically on Freudian psychology to draw studies of their characters, this one stands out as mostly avoiding that tool, and still managing to paint a picture of the person rather than of just his accomplishments.
Oppenheimer was very much a victim of the times in which he worked and lived, and the authors also do a very good job of sketching in just enough historical perspective to put Oppenheimer in a "place" historically without drowning readers in events and dates.
Overall, a nice way to break into biography for people new to the genre, because it reads much more like a novel than a textbook. Well deserving of its award-winner status.
Publishers Weekly, 2005-03-07 Though many recognize Oppenheimer (1904-1967) as the father of the atomic bomb, few are as familiar with his career before and after Los Alamos. Sherwin (A World Destroyed) has spent 25 years researching every facet of Oppenheimer's life, from his childhood on Manhattan's Upper West Side and his prewar years as a Berkeley physicist to his public humiliation when he was branded a security risk at the height of anticommunist hysteria in 1954. Teaming up with Bird, an acclaimed Cold War historian (The Color of Truth), Sherwin examines the evidence surrounding Oppenheimer's "hazy and vague" connections to the Communist Party in the 1930sAloose interactions consistent with the activities of contemporary progressives. But those politics, in combination with Oppenheimer's abrasive personality, were enough for conservatives, from fellow scientist Edward Teller to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, to work at destroying Oppenheimer's postwar reputation and prevent him from swaying public opinion against the development of a hydrogen bomb. Bird and Sherwin identify Atomic Energy Commission head Lewis Strauss as the ringleader of a "conspiracy" that culminated in a security clearance hearing designed as a "show trial." Strauss's tactics included illegal wiretaps of Oppenheimer's attorney; those transcripts and other government documents are invaluable in debunking the charges against Oppenheimer. The political drama is enhanced by the close attention to Oppenheimer's personal life, and Bird and Sherwin do not conceal their occasional frustration with his arrogant stonewalling and panicky blunders, even as they shed light on the psychological roots for those failures, restoring human complexity to a man who had been both elevated and demonized. 32 pages of photos not seen by PW. (Apr. 10) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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