American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin


  • Author(s): Kai BirdMartin J. Sherwin.
  • Language: english.
  • Publication date: 2006.
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ISBN: 978-0375726262

American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin (Oppenheimer)

“American Prometheus” is a comprehensive account of J. Robert Oppenheimer, renowned physicist and the mastermind behind the development of the atomic bomb. He was a brilliant and captivating leader who spearheaded the race to harness the incredible power of the sun for his nation during wartime. Following the events of Hiroshima, he became the most widely recognized scientist of his era, an emblematic figure of the twentieth century representing the collision between scientific advancement and its aftermath.

He presented a revolutionary plan to establish global regulations on atomic materials, a concept that remains pertinent in present times. He opposed the creation of the hydrogen bomb and criticized the Air Force’s strategy of waging a potentially catastrophic nuclear war. During the almost-forgotten hysteria of the early 1950s, his viewpoints were deeply opposed by influential supporters of an immense nuclear arms buildup. Consequently, Lewis Strauss, the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Edward Teller, a leading proponent of the Superbomb, and J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the FBI, colluded behind closed doors to convene a hearing that would declare Oppenheimer unsuitable to be entrusted with America’s nuclear secrets.

American Prometheus provides an unprecedented and revealing account of Oppenheimer’s life and experiences. Meticulously researched, it draws upon thousands of records and letters obtained from archives in the United States and abroad, as well as extensive FBI files and nearly one hundred interviews with Oppenheimer’s colleagues, friends, and family members.

The book chronicles Oppenheimer’s journey from his earliest education at New York City’s Ethical Culture School around the turn of the twentieth century, through personal challenges during his time at Harvard and Cambridge universities. It follows him to Germany, where he studied quantum physics with some of the most accomplished theorists in the world, and to Berkeley, California, where he established the leading school of theoretical physics in America during the 1930s. Oppenheimer also became deeply involved with social justice causes and their advocates, many of whom were communists.

“American Prometheus” delves into Oppenheimer’s time at Los Alamos, New Mexico, where he oversaw the development of the world’s most potent nuclear weapons laboratory and experienced a personal transformation. The book also explores Oppenheimer’s tenure as director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton from 1947 to 1966.

This book is a vivid portrayal of America during the mid-twentieth century, offering a fresh and compelling depiction of a brilliant, ambitious, complex, and flawed man who was deeply involved in the major events of the era, including the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War. It is both a biography and a history, providing essential insights into our recent past and the choices we face for the future.

American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin

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Publisher ‏ : ‎ Vintage.
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Paperback ‏ : ‎ 721 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0375726268
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0375726262
“The definitive biography…. Oppenheimer’s life doesn’t influence us. It haunts us.” —Newsweek

“A masterful account of Oppenheimer’s rise and fall, set in the context of the turbulent decades of America’s own transformation. It is a tour de force.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review

“A work of voluminous scholarship and lucid insight, unifying its multifaceted portrait with a keen grasp of Oppenheimer’s essential nature…. It succeeds in deeply fathoming his most damaging, self-contradictory behavior.” —The New York Times

“There have been numerous books about Oppenheimer but they can't touch this extraordinary book's impressive breadth and scope.” —The Miami Herald

“The first biography to give full due to Oppenheimer’s extraordinary complexity…. Stands as an Everest among the mountains of books on the bomb project and Oppenheimer, and is an achievement not likely to be surpassed or equaled.” —The Boston Globe

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