American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer❮Reading❯ ➺ American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer Author Kai Bird – Jobs-in-kingston.co.uk J Robert Oppenheimer is one of the iconic figures of the twentieth century, a brilliant physicist who led the effort to build the atomic bomb for his country in a time of war, and who later found hims J Robert The Triumph Epub Ý Oppenheimer is one of the iconic figures of the twentieth century, a American Prometheus: Kindle - brilliant physicist who led the effort to build the atomic bomb for his country in Prometheus: The Triumph PDF Í a time of war, and who later found himself confronting the moral consequences of scientific progress In this magisterial, acclaimed biography twenty five years in the making, Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin capture Oppenheimer s life and times, from his early career to his central role in the Cold War This is biography and history at its finest, riveting and deeply informative. Let s do the numbers.599 pages of text256 books read for research44 articles and dissertations consulted41 manuscript collections pillaged10 government document collections accessed 1 Pulitzer Prize6 newspapers magazines named it best book of the year19 quality blurbs41 listed abbreviations20 page long index83 pages of notes 112 people interviewed severalthan once 2 authors25 years in the making38 days to read across 3 cities23 corners folded by this girl to mark something fascinatingTo d Let s do the numbers.599 pages of text256 books read for research44 articles and dissertations consulted41 manuscript collections pillaged10 government document collections accessed 1 Pulitzer Prize6 newspapers magazines named it best book of the year19 quality blurbs41 listed abbreviations20 page long index83 pages of notes 112 people interviewed severalthan once 2 authors25 years in the making38 days to read across 3 cities23 corners folded by this girl to mark something fascinatingTo describe this book as merely well researched would be an insult It is an exhaustively thorough look at an important American figure that I had never heard of when my dad gave this book to me as a Christmas gift several years ago I had a vague notion that J Robert Oppenheimer was in the newspaper business Oppie as I now refer to him was a brilliant physicist and character, who headed the American development of the atomic bomb during WWII only to be stripped of his security clearance years later for petty political reasons When I finished this book, I was all Oppie said the cleverest thing about insert topic and Oppie would have loved this documentary book color shirt I swear I was that annoying person who just achieved a likely one sided friendship with someone much cooler and can t shut up about it What exactly can you expect to learn about MY NEW BESTIE in this book 1 Speculation about whether Oppie was a closet CommunistThere are paragraphs, pages, and chapters playing the was he or wasn t he game What exactly did he learn at that wacko school as a youngster Did he pay party dues Why didn t he report that conversation earlier Why did he meet with that person on that day The only person who really had the answer to the main question is Oppie, and he said no Repeatedly This speculation may sound boring and it was at times , but it was integral to the story as it later brought down a man who had devoted his life to doing what he thought was best for this country 2 Luminaries of the dayAs brilliant as Oppie was, he was also surrounded by brilliant people After nearly every description of his physicist buddies, there was a note that so and so went on to receive the Nobel Prize You will also learn about key political and military figures of the day And for all these people, you will getthan just a rehashing of their image You ll get a quick glimpse of their personality, weakness, opinions, antics This book breathes with characters 3 A critical era of American historyThe authors evoked not just the people, but also stepped back and evoked the times starting with the rush to develop the atomic bomb before the Germans hurry, hurry, hurry and then the debate that followed Hiroshima was that really necessary what now build another It was a dicey time for America and the world I had learned some of this during my undergraduate, but this book bought it home for me 4 Absolutely nothing about scienceIf you are curious regarding the specifics of how the bomb was built or the physics behind it, you will be sorely disappointed while I was greatly pleased 5 His wife I have become increasingly interested in the stories of the women behind important men how they helped made their men great and even how they suffered for it For example, I remember walking through a museum about Einstein a couple years ago and thinking his wife deserved a medal, bucket of tears, her own museum, something for the crap she put up with And Oppie s wife, Kitty was similarly intriguing Here is a brief review of her, count em, four marriages Husband 1 Why you should read your spouse s diaryWhen Kitty was studying aboard in Europe, she impulsively married a musician only to discover, when she snooped in his diary, that he was a gay drug addict Strike one.Husband 2 Voluntary poverty followed by voluntary deathKitty bounced back quickly and married a handsome American activist Although both came from well to do families, they chose to live in poverty to show their commitment to Communist ideals Kitty eventually got fed up with lifestyle and walked away The two were just starting to rekindle their love when he was killed fighting in the Spanish Civil War on the side of, you guessed it, the leftists.Husband 3 This is Robert calling Your wife is pregnant with my child Kitty s next pick was an emotionally distant doctor It was during this marriage that Kitty met Oppie and started some extramarital hanky panky When she discovered she was pregnant with Oppie s child, Husband 3 and Oppie had a very civilized phone conversation where they decided it would be best if Kitty divorced one and married the other I really wish the FBI had wire tapped that call What kind of husband can calmly discuss his wife s infidelity with her lover He must have been cold as a block of ice Husband 4 Loved by Oppie, hated by everyone elseAfter all the duds, Oppie was the one The general consensus was that Oppie s wife was a rude, habitually tipsy, and mediocre housewife, as well as a cold mother Her one redeeming quality was her fierce loyalty to Oppie and his career Yet she seemed frustrated in his shadows having given up her burgeoning career in botany for his sake My favorite quote about Kitty was that she made small talk, but she really wanted to make big talk Whew I don t know about you, but Kitty wears me out And since she is not likeable enough to be the subject of her own biography, I am glad these authors gave her such good coverage here As many anecdotes that made me sympathize with her, there were just as many times when I wanted to reach back in time and shake her.That s enough about Kitty It s not often that I have a picture of myself reading the book I m reviewing But today is your lucky day In a scene that is probably familiar to GoodReaders, here I am reading my book off in a corner during a family get together image error This time we were bunkered down in a cabin in a state park right as the temperature plummeted Off camera were my cousins and uncles playing rowdy board and computer games While they clicked their mouses to send imaginary bombs at enemy troops in whatever game Extra Bloody DeathCom War Unlimited 4 , I was reading about Oppie s ethical doubts after an actual bomb killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese Who was havingfun I should probably let this review end with the picture But since we started with the numbers, I think we should finish with one .5 stars J Robert Oppenheimer is called the father of the atomic bomb, which is a shorthand way of saying that we know he did something important as the scientific director of the Manhattan Project, but we just aren t sure what that was What I mean is that Oppenheimer never made a great discovery or proposed a great theory He wasn t Rutherford explaining the atom s nucleus He wasn t Bohr, modeling the atom He wasn t Lawrence, inventing the cyclotron to smash atoms And he wasn t Fermi, developing J Robert Oppenheimer is called the father of the atomic bomb, which is a shorthand way of saying that we know he did something important as the scientific director of the Manhattan Project, but we just aren t sure what that was What I mean is that Oppenheimer never made a great discovery or proposed a great theory He wasn t Rutherford explaining the atom s nucleus He wasn t Bohr, modeling the atom He wasn t Lawrence, inventing the cyclotron to smash atoms And he wasn t Fermi, developing the nuclear reactor Oppenheimer was a synthesizer, an understander, and an explainer His genius and he was a genius was to know what all these other geniuses were talking about, and to be able to put all these different discoveries together to create something good Or in this case, the atomic bomb American Prometheus is a hefty biography of this enigmatic, brilliant, flawed man The dual authors, Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin, spent a great deal of time on this book, and it shows Along with an impressive bibliography, they have conducted personal interviews with key players The fact that some of these interviews date to the seventies show that the authors have been at work on this project for a long time much longer, in fact, than it took for Los Alamos team to churn out a nuclear weapon The fact that these guys worked so long is a pretty good indication that they are fans of J Robert This is also obvious from the title, an allusion to the Titan who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to the mortals For this crime, Prometheus was punished During the day, he was chained to a rock and had his liver eaten by an eagle During the night, his liver regenerated, and was eaten again the next day.Oppenheimer makes for a great character, and in a way, the allusion to Greek mythology is apt, and something Oppenheimer himself would have enjoyed He was brilliant, and not just in the sciences His interests and his intellect encompassed poetry, philosophy, history, and languages The problem, however, was that he knew his own intelligence, but not its limits This made him overbearing, brusque, impatient, condescending, and inflexible These traits tragic flaws, if you will lead to his downfall at the hands of his Red baiting fellow scientist, Lewis Strauss American Prometheus is a fine book Just fine It is packed full of information It is well sourced It gives the whole sweep of Oppenheimer s life And not just the science The book gets right into the messy details the rampant adultery the alcoholic wife the political tone deafness his callous willingness to name names, once he became famous and his final passive surrender to his enemies Still, I didn t love this book I didn t even like it very much My criticisms, I suppose, can be traced to the subtitle the triumph and the tragedy Oppenheimer s triumph was his role in birthing the atomic bomb The problem, though, is that I can t figure out what he did The book is full of people telling me how great he was, and how the project couldn t have succeeded without him, but this is a case of telling, not showing In fact, I felt the Los Alamos portions of the book, which should have been the most important, were disorganized and confusing I think the problem stems from a lack of context Now, don t get me wrong, I hate physics Indeed, I dislike even simple arithmetic with great passion However, the science is important to this story, and it s just missing from the book The authors break down Oppenheimer s field of quantum physics in one or two un illuminating sentences The achievements of the other scientists are barely mentioned, if they re mentioned at all If I were to read just this book, I would have no idea about the process it took to create the atomic bomb Thankfully, I have read Richard Rhodes masterful The Making of the Atomic Bomb Despite the odd, semi creepy title, this is a remarkable book that combines wonderfully understandable science writing with an eloquent, vivid narrative Once the bomb is dropped, the story moves onto the guilt of the scientists I wouldn t like this part no matter how well it was written The scientists who worked on the bomb, then opposed its use, have always come across as myopic babies They jumped headfirst into a program to create a super bomb, and then reacted with shock shock that it might be dropped on people Hey, geniuses, way to think ahead Their shifting morality is a combination of hypocrisy and shame intended to hide their earlier craven desire to see if the damn thing would work Take a stand and stick with it I don t really care for Edward Teller and his disturbing ruminations on a bomb that could destroy the whole world, but at least he was intellectually consistent and consistently crazy Oppenheimer was at the vanguard of scientists who wanted to be open with the Soviet Union about nuclear arms, thereby hoping to forestall an arms race Maybe this was naive Maybe this might have worked In any event, it s not the kind of position to have if you were ever part of the Communist movement By this time, though, Oppenheimer s ego had inflated to the point where he thought he was untouchable He went around preaching candor while also holding a top secret security clearance as a consultant to the Atomic Energy Commission This proved a mistake, especially while Senator Joseph McCarthy was holding office Eventually, Lewis Strauss orchestrated a kangaroo court hearing in which Oppenheimer was stripped of his security clearance Hence, the tragedy of the subtitle.This period of American history always gets me fiercely agitated and there are few historical figures I hate as much as Joe McCarthy It just boggles my mind McCarthy and his henchman, Richard Nixon among them, essentially managed to outlaw liberalism Anyone who supported unions, or segregation, or equal pay for women, could have their lives destroyed by the flabby, red faced, alcoholic senator from Wisconsin.Those who dare side with McCarthy have always pointed out the fact that the Communist Party had a revolutionary ethos The problem with this argument, though, is that there is a line between literally overthrowing a democratically elected government by force of arms and overthrowing the government democratically which pretty much happened a couple weeks ago in Massachusetts McCarthy and Nixon weren t really interested in protecting America They were interested in protecting themselves, and their positions in government And what better way to do this than make your ideological opponents criminals Thus, Oppenheimer, who at worst was a New Dealer, could have his reputation damaged and his future in government destroyed The Red Scare was a farce, and if there was any justice at all, it was that McCarthy was eventually shunned and died a disgraced drunk at the age of 48 That rant aside, the tragedy of Oppenheimer didn t seem all that terrible It felt, in fact, quite overblown by the authors So he lost his security clearance Big deal He knew this going into the commission, and could have avoided the whole sham trial In fact, Einstein advised him to do this, and Oppenheimer wouldn t listen The lesson here take Einstein s advice, Einstein After losing his clearance, Oppenheimer still had his wealth, his family, the ability to travel the world, and a beach side house in the Virgin Islands I m not exactly weeping for his post revocation life More important to my overall enjoyment of this book was the fact I never really felt connected This isof a personal, ephemeral observation, in the sense that I can t really explain it Certain biographies written by the likes of Caro, Massey, and Morris have touched me profoundly, so that I feel a shiver of sadness as the subject reaches his final days The best biographies can evoke a response startlingly close to empathy Even the greatest of men or women can be dramatically humanized, brought to life, made relatable, so that you understand them as persons, rather than abstract movers of the levers of history American Prometheus didn t provoke that response from me That doesn t mean that this isn t a high class biography, because it is Most people would probably read this book and disagree with my assessment Indeed, there is a bronzed circle on the cover of my book which informs me that the National Book Critics Circle thinks I m an idiot Impressive biography of J Robert Oppenheimer, the nuclear physicist who went from obscurity to international fame as the director of the Manhattan Project, to ignominy and exile over his ambivalence towards nuclear weapons and leftist political views Bird and Sherwin depict Oppenheimer throughout as a genius who, like many great men and women, is riven through with contradictions and personal foibles He s a great lecturer and mentor to students and juniors, but somewhat ill at ease around pee Impressive biography of J Robert Oppenheimer, the nuclear physicist who went from obscurity to international fame as the director of the Manhattan Project, to ignominy and exile over his ambivalence towards nuclear weapons and leftist political views Bird and Sherwin depict Oppenheimer throughout as a genius who, like many great men and women, is riven through with contradictions and personal foibles He s a great lecturer and mentor to students and juniors, but somewhat ill at ease around peers and non scientists a devoted husband to Kitty, his brilliant but mentally troubled wife who nonetheless carried on several affairs his beliefs, a strange admixture of Eastern philosophy, cutting edge physics though, as the authors readily admit,in applying extant theories to practical application and a naivety bordering on credulity towards Communism Indeed, Bird and Sherwin spend much time on Oppenheimer s politics, showing that he moved in the same circles as the Far Left his wife was friends with Steve Nelson, a notorious CPUSA organizer his brother, Frank, joined the Party he attended meetings but spurned recruitment through the idealism that led many New Deal era progressives to find common cause with the Far Left dislike of fascism Oppenheimer was Jewish, with relatives killed in the Holocaust , support for labor reforms and racial justice, which weighedheavily than Stalin s atrocities The book s passages on the Manhattan Project and the development of the A bomb are much lighter on science than, say, Richard Rhodes Making of the Atomic Bomb There semphasis on Oppenheimer s relationships with General Groves and his fellow scientists, the government s ongoing distrust of him which caused him to expel several suspected Soviet spies from the Project and how his scientific enthusiasm vanished as the disturbing ramifications of nuclear weapons become clear Oppenheimer all but renounced his achievements after WWII, leading to investigations by Congress and the FBI, the humiliating revocation of his security clearance and a vagabond life drifting between teaching at Princeton, foreign lectures and warnings about the Cold War For its immersive prose, sharp judgments and capturing Oppenheimer in all his maddening complexity a great man fatally inured to risk, in science, politics and romance this biography stands, in all likelihood, as definitive The trouble with Oppenheimer is that he loves a woman who doesn t love him the United States governmentAlbert Einstein, Quoted in American PrometheusThere is way too exploding in my head after reading this tonight to write a full and even meaningful review I ve always been fascinated with the Manhattan Project and last year read Rhode s amazing book, The Making of the Atomic Bomb I ve also read several of Richard Feynman s memoirs that detail aspects of his work and stories, but this hasThe trouble with Oppenheimer is that he loves a woman who doesn t love him the United States governmentAlbert Einstein, Quoted in American PrometheusThere is way too exploding in my head after reading this tonight to write a full and even meaningful review I ve always been fascinated with the Manhattan Project and last year read Rhode s amazing book, The Making of the Atomic Bomb I ve also read several of Richard Feynman s memoirs that detail aspects of his work and stories, but this has been the fullest investigation I ve read into Oppenheimer s life Things I ll probably write a bit about tomorrow 1 Oppenheimer, and Modern Physicists as founding father s of the modern age.2 The show trials of the AEC.3 Disappointment in Bernard Baruch, Teller, American Institutions, and even Oppenheimer.3 Current atmosphere of suspicion of Science.4 Current atmosphere of extreme vetting and loyalty tests.5 Other Myths for Oppenheimer Pandora s Box or Flying too close to the Sun This is a very thorough book in some respects, and yet it is so narrow in scope I almost want to run out and read another Oppenheimer biography, and some histories that cover the same time period to get the personal details and background history the authors assumed you knew in THIS book Almost.Sure, I m familiar with the basic details of WWII, the McCarthy Era, and the atomic bomb, but if I wasn t this book wouldn t have helped much Instead, the authors follow J Robert Oppenheimer s life in This is a very thorough book in some respects, and yet it is so narrow in scope I almost want to run out and read another Oppenheimer biography, and some histories that cover the same time period to get the personal details and background history the authors assumed you knew in THIS book Almost.Sure, I m familiar with the basic details of WWII, the McCarthy Era, and the atomic bomb, but if I wasn t this book wouldn t have helped much Instead, the authors follow J Robert Oppenheimer s life in detail from birth to death with a laser s focus on every political relationship and communist connection he ever had, so much so everything else is in soft focus The book becomes at times a laundry list of names, connected to their political affiliations and possible communist leanings Even Robert himself is given short shrift to the communist question Every possible Communist connection is examined and re examined so often, I felt like the authors had in effect become Oppenheimer s belated defense team Why did they feel Oppenheimer needed defending, you may be asking Wasn t he a brilliant physicist, the one who headed the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb Yes, he certainly was Everyone in the scientific community was concerned that Germany was developing a bomb, including Oppenheimer, who was especially appalled over what was happening in fascist Germany, and horrified about what was being done to the Jews He was eager to use his scientific skills in service of his country But the power of the bomb that was developed filled him with concern, especially after seeing it used against a Japan that was essentially already defeated.Oppenheimer felt that the use of such weapons should be regulated not just by the U.S., and that secrecy would lead to an arms race with the Soviet Union, and he was right But his advocacy for free sharing of information, and an international committee to guide the use of atomic power was not what the U.S government wanted to hear in the 50s His opposition to the development of the H bomb opened him up to suspicion, and he was investigated by the FBI, including the illegal wiretapping of his phones.Oppenheimer had been working as a professor at Berkeley before the war, and as a liberal thinker he had had friends and family who were Communist, back when that meant opposition to the fascist regime in Spain, and improving social conditions at home He had donated money to various causes through the U.S Communist party, which wasn t unusual for the time His own brother and his wife had been members of the Communist party at one time, although Robert himself never had been All of these connections were used against him by his opponents many years later, in hearings in the 50s.Everything in the book leads up to Oppenheimer s hearings before the Personnel Security Board team put together by General Lewis Strauss, who was determined to both remove Oppenheimer from the Atomic Energy Commission, and remove his security clearance Strauss had clashed with Oppenheimer over the development of the H bomb, and had developed a personal antipathy to the scientist With the tacit consent of President Eisenhower, Strauss set up a star chamber hearing to railroad Oppenheimer out, using unfair tactics such as denying access to evidence and not releasing the list of witnesses to Oppenheimer s lawyers ahead of time Oppenheimer became seen as a Galileo type martyr to the scientific community, and though he was eventually rehabilitated and honored by President Johnson, Oppenheimer never truly recovered from the hearings.All of this part of Oppenheimer s life we get in exhaustive detail What you won t learn so much about is Oppenheimer s personal life, which is present in the book, but not examined Oppenheimer had a magnetic personality, and many relationships with women that we hear just a little about He had affairs, even after his marriage to Kitty, whose previous husband was a Communist who had died fighting in the Spanish Civil War I wanted to knowabout his relationship with Kitty, a tempestuous woman with a big drinking problem We hear that the Oppenheimers gave parties where they lavished their guests with drinks, but then skimped on the food That s fascinating, I wanted to knowabout what was going on there, and hear what people thought about it I wanted to knowabout his children, and how they felt being raised in such a family We get tantalizing bits and pieces about how Robert tried to give his daughter away to another family at Los Alamos, and never bonded with his son, but then we are torn away to hear again aboutCommunist stuff Can you hear my frustration Sure, I figure there is WAYdocumentation out there on the Communist issue, thanks to the FBI, than to Oppenheimer s personal life, and that s what the authors focused on They do a good job of presenting this information chronologically and clearly, and if that s what you re interested in, you won t be disappointed You will get every detail you could ever hope for But if you want to know Oppenheimer, the man, you will only get glimpses here I am in the middle of moving from one country to another, so I just do not have the time to write a decent review of this excellent, marvelous book Please, if you are at all interested in either history or amazing people grab this book soon On closing this book the reader truly understands the atmosphere that swallowed up America during the era of McCarthyism and the Cold War The reader comes to understand Oppenheimer his creativity, his imagination and his failings too The list of the lat I am in the middle of moving from one country to another, so I just do not have the time to write a decent review of this excellent, marvelous book Please, if you are at all interested in either history or amazing people grab this book soon On closing this book the reader truly understands the atmosphere that swallowed up America during the era of McCarthyism and the Cold War The reader comes to understand Oppenheimer his creativity, his imagination and his failings too The list of the latter is long, but boy do I admire the guy There is so much I could tell you about this man who I knew nothing about before I read this book, except his label as the Father of the Atomic Bomb.I don t regret reading Bomb The Race to Build and Steal the World s Most Dangerous Weapon, but the two don t compare You in no way need to read one to read the other The first is about the bomb, the Manhattan project and spying, but this about Oppenheimer is about the person and his era.I listened to the audiobook read by Jeff Cummings I have no complaints with the narration Read the book or listen to it You choose which ever suits you best Just don t add it to one of those never ending lists of books that you don t get around to actually reading It was an interesting read and an interesting life though during the course of it I realised that Oppenheimer didn t appeal to me at all as a person.The background is interesting, particularly the role of Communism in the USA during the Popular Front period of opposition to Fascism before WWII and how that then panned out in the 1950s, ie what had been permissible came to be viewed as criminal even treacherous Purely as a result of this Oppenheimer s younger brother ended up effectively in a fo It was an interesting read and an interesting life though during the course of it I realised that Oppenheimer didn t appeal to me at all as a person.The background is interesting, particularly the role of Communism in the USA during the Popular Front period of opposition to Fascism before WWII and how that then panned out in the 1950s, ie what had been permissible came to be viewed as criminal even treacherous Purely as a result of this Oppenheimer s younger brother ended up effectively in a form of internal exile in the USA unable to work at all in physics.Oppenheimer emerges as a competitive, ambitious figure who was perfectly willing to overlook any moral scruples to have the atomic bomb constructed and then tested Particularly interesting was how the team involved in developing the Atom bomb campaigned to have two Japanese target towns reserved for them to test the bomb out on there s a discussion of the cost effectiveness of the development of the atomic bomb over investment in conventional weaponry in The Shock of the Old that is worth looking at in this context view spoiler broadly arguing that the decision to develop an atomic weapon lengthened the duration of the war by diverting resources away from producing conventional weapons hide spoiler.This is also a life in science and worth reading for picture of how the new physics of the early 20th century was transmitted by Oppenheimer and others who were partially educated in Europe and then propagated those ideas in the USA in the pre war period Personally, all that I new about J Robert Oppenheimer was his time during Project Manhattan and a few details about his show trial in 1954 This book managed to bring a lotcontext to these events and show me as close it is possible the real Oppenheimer What else can I say, this is probably the best biography of J Robert Oppenheimer there is and together with Richard Rhodes Making of the Atomic Bomb and Dark Sun makes the penultimate atomic trilogy. American Prometheus The Triumph and Tragedy of J Robert Oppenheimer was the Pulitzer prize winning book in 2006 This was a comprehensive biography of J Robert Oppenheimer and the birth of Los Alamos and the atomic bomb, devised to bring the end to World War II with the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki The irony of this book may be that Oppenheimer, as a young man, came to New Mexico, finding not only himself, but that he loved this beautiful country Many years later, I think that a re American Prometheus The Triumph and Tragedy of J Robert Oppenheimer was the Pulitzer prize winning book in 2006 This was a comprehensive biography of J Robert Oppenheimer and the birth of Los Alamos and the atomic bomb, devised to bring the end to World War II with the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki The irony of this book may be that Oppenheimer, as a young man, came to New Mexico, finding not only himself, but that he loved this beautiful country Many years later, I think that a regret that he had was bringing the attention of the world to northern New Mexico he craved the exhilaration and the invigorating calmness induced by Perro Caliente There was a rhythm now to his life intense, intellectual work, at times to the point of near exhaustion, followed by a month orof near exhaustion, followed by a month orof renewal on horseback in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico We learned to watch the snow on the Sangres, and to look for deer in Water Canyon, Phil Morrison later wrote, with a lyricism that reflected the emotional attachment to the land that seized many residents We found that on the mesas and the valley that there was an old and strange culture there were our neighbors, the people of the pueblos, and there were the caves of Otowi canyon to remind us that other men had sought water in the dry land Having spent my early childhood in Los Alamos, I am still very conflicted about that time in our history Oppenheimer was not only the choice of General Groves, but also the one who was able to assemble a group of physicists and scientists to come to a remote part of the United States and pioneer this daunting project Much of the genius of Oppenheimer was his uncanny ability to ferret out the best talent and to relentlessly pursue that talent and to motivate and inspire them However, the underlying and dark theme throughout this book was the hysteria that was rampant in the 1950 s about communism.This is also a tale of a very complex man, not only a brilliant scientist and leader and a true twentieth century Renaissance Man , but one who was devastated with the human toll that was wrought with the unleashing of the science that he had shepherded This was a man who was well versed in Shakespeare and The Bhagavad Gita, who spent many years urging nuclear arms controlToday that pride must be tempered with a profound concern If atomic bombs are to be added as new weapons to the arsenals of a warring world, or to the arsenals of nations preparing for war, then the time will come when mankind will curse the names of Los Alamos and HiroshimaJ Robert Oppenheimer on October 16, 1946We may be likened to two scorpions in a bottle, each capable of killing the other, but only at the risk of his own lifeJ Robert Oppenheimer, 1953 American Prometheus The Triumph and Tragedy of J Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J Sherwin is an outstanding biography of J Robert Oppenheimer Oppenheimer was a fascinating individual and this book does him justice As I was reading this biography I was struck by the parallels between Oppenheimer s life and Alan Turing s life They had similar backgrounds, played major roles in World War Two and in the development of modern technology, led lives filled with both triumph and tra American Prometheus The Triumph and Tragedy of J Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J Sherwin is an outstanding biography of J Robert Oppenheimer Oppenheimer was a fascinating individual and this book does him justice As I was reading this biography I was struck by the parallels between Oppenheimer s life and Alan Turing s life They had similar backgrounds, played major roles in World War Two and in the development of modern technology, led lives filled with both triumph and tragedy, and even had mysterious incidents involving a poison apple I would love to see someone write a dual biography of Oppenheimer and Turing I m not sure if these two ever met in person I hope to find out soon but they traveled in some of the same circles including the Institute for Advanced Study One other thought This book is not as detailed on the science of the development of the atomic bomb I think a good complementary scientific book is The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in 20th Century history, nuclear war, or biographies Rating 5 out of 5 stars Notes Audiobook Narrated by Jeff Cummings Length 26 hours and 30 minutes Unabridged Audiobook Release Date 2007 03 28 Publisher Blackstone Audio, Inc

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert
    American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert progress In this magisterial, acclaimed biography twenty five years in the making, Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin capture Oppenheimer s life and times, from his early career to his central role in the Cold War This is biography and history at its finest, riveting and deeply informative. Let s do the numbers.599 pages of text256 books read for research44 articles and dissertations consulted41 manuscript collections pillaged10 government document collections accessed 1 Pulitzer Prize6 newspapers magazines named it best book of the year19 quality blurbs41 listed abbreviations20 page long index83 pages of notes 112 people interviewed severalthan once 2 authors25 years in the making38 days to read across 3 cities23 corners folded by this girl to mark something fascinatingTo d Let s do the numbers.599 pages of text256 books read for research44 articles and dissertations consulted41 manuscript collections pillaged10 government document collections accessed 1 Pulitzer Prize6 newspapers magazines named it best book of the year19 quality blurbs41 listed abbreviations20 page long index83 pages of notes 112 people interviewed severalthan once 2 authors25 years in the making38 days to read across 3 cities23 corners folded by this girl to mark something fascinatingTo describe this book as merely well researched would be an insult It is an exhaustively thorough look at an important American figure that I had never heard of when my dad gave this book to me as a Christmas gift several years ago I had a vague notion that J Robert Oppenheimer was in the newspaper business Oppie as I now refer to him was a brilliant physicist and character, who headed the American development of the atomic bomb during WWII only to be stripped of his security clearance years later for petty political reasons When I finished this book, I was all Oppie said the cleverest thing about insert topic and Oppie would have loved this documentary book color shirt I swear I was that annoying person who just achieved a likely one sided friendship with someone much cooler and can t shut up about it What exactly can you expect to learn about MY NEW BESTIE in this book 1 Speculation about whether Oppie was a closet CommunistThere are paragraphs, pages, and chapters playing the was he or wasn t he game What exactly did he learn at that wacko school as a youngster Did he pay party dues Why didn t he report that conversation earlier Why did he meet with that person on that day The only person who really had the answer to the main question is Oppie, and he said no Repeatedly This speculation may sound boring and it was at times , but it was integral to the story as it later brought down a man who had devoted his life to doing what he thought was best for this country 2 Luminaries of the dayAs brilliant as Oppie was, he was also surrounded by brilliant people After nearly every description of his physicist buddies, there was a note that so and so went on to receive the Nobel Prize You will also learn about key political and military figures of the day And for all these people, you will getthan just a rehashing of their image You ll get a quick glimpse of their personality, weakness, opinions, antics This book breathes with characters 3 A critical era of American historyThe authors evoked not just the people, but also stepped back and evoked the times starting with the rush to develop the atomic bomb before the Germans hurry, hurry, hurry and then the debate that followed Hiroshima was that really necessary what now build another It was a dicey time for America and the world I had learned some of this during my undergraduate, but this book bought it home for me 4 Absolutely nothing about scienceIf you are curious regarding the specifics of how the bomb was built or the physics behind it, you will be sorely disappointed while I was greatly pleased 5 His wife I have become increasingly interested in the stories of the women behind important men how they helped made their men great and even how they suffered for it For example, I remember walking through a museum about Einstein a couple years ago and thinking his wife deserved a medal, bucket of tears, her own museum, something for the crap she put up with And Oppie s wife, Kitty was similarly intriguing Here is a brief review of her, count em, four marriages Husband 1 Why you should read your spouse s diaryWhen Kitty was studying aboard in Europe, she impulsively married a musician only to discover, when she snooped in his diary, that he was a gay drug addict Strike one.Husband 2 Voluntary poverty followed by voluntary deathKitty bounced back quickly and married a handsome American activist Although both came from well to do families, they chose to live in poverty to show their commitment to Communist ideals Kitty eventually got fed up with lifestyle and walked away The two were just starting to rekindle their love when he was killed fighting in the Spanish Civil War on the side of, you guessed it, the leftists.Husband 3 This is Robert calling Your wife is pregnant with my child Kitty s next pick was an emotionally distant doctor It was during this marriage that Kitty met Oppie and started some extramarital hanky panky When she discovered she was pregnant with Oppie s child, Husband 3 and Oppie had a very civilized phone conversation where they decided it would be best if Kitty divorced one and married the other I really wish the FBI had wire tapped that call What kind of husband can calmly discuss his wife s infidelity with her lover He must have been cold as a block of ice Husband 4 Loved by Oppie, hated by everyone elseAfter all the duds, Oppie was the one The general consensus was that Oppie s wife was a rude, habitually tipsy, and mediocre housewife, as well as a cold mother Her one redeeming quality was her fierce loyalty to Oppie and his career Yet she seemed frustrated in his shadows having given up her burgeoning career in botany for his sake My favorite quote about Kitty was that she made small talk, but she really wanted to make big talk Whew I don t know about you, but Kitty wears me out And since she is not likeable enough to be the subject of her own biography, I am glad these authors gave her such good coverage here As many anecdotes that made me sympathize with her, there were just as many times when I wanted to reach back in time and shake her.That s enough about Kitty It s not often that I have a picture of myself reading the book I m reviewing But today is your lucky day In a scene that is probably familiar to GoodReaders, here I am reading my book off in a corner during a family get together image error This time we were bunkered down in a cabin in a state park right as the temperature plummeted Off camera were my cousins and uncles playing rowdy board and computer games While they clicked their mouses to send imaginary bombs at enemy troops in whatever game Extra Bloody DeathCom War Unlimited 4 , I was reading about Oppie s ethical doubts after an actual bomb killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese Who was havingfun I should probably let this review end with the picture But since we started with the numbers, I think we should finish with one .5 stars J Robert Oppenheimer is called the father of the atomic bomb, which is a shorthand way of saying that we know he did something important as the scientific director of the Manhattan Project, but we just aren t sure what that was What I mean is that Oppenheimer never made a great discovery or proposed a great theory He wasn t Rutherford explaining the atom s nucleus He wasn t Bohr, modeling the atom He wasn t Lawrence, inventing the cyclotron to smash atoms And he wasn t Fermi, developing J Robert Oppenheimer is called the father of the atomic bomb, which is a shorthand way of saying that we know he did something important as the scientific director of the Manhattan Project, but we just aren t sure what that was What I mean is that Oppenheimer never made a great discovery or proposed a great theory He wasn t Rutherford explaining the atom s nucleus He wasn t Bohr, modeling the atom He wasn t Lawrence, inventing the cyclotron to smash atoms And he wasn t Fermi, developing the nuclear reactor Oppenheimer was a synthesizer, an understander, and an explainer His genius and he was a genius was to know what all these other geniuses were talking about, and to be able to put all these different discoveries together to create something good Or in this case, the atomic bomb American Prometheus is a hefty biography of this enigmatic, brilliant, flawed man The dual authors, Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin, spent a great deal of time on this book, and it shows Along with an impressive bibliography, they have conducted personal interviews with key players The fact that some of these interviews date to the seventies show that the authors have been at work on this project for a long time much longer, in fact, than it took for Los Alamos team to churn out a nuclear weapon The fact that these guys worked so long is a pretty good indication that they are fans of J Robert This is also obvious from the title, an allusion to the Titan who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to the mortals For this crime, Prometheus was punished During the day, he was chained to a rock and had his liver eaten by an eagle During the night, his liver regenerated, and was eaten again the next day.Oppenheimer makes for a great character, and in a way, the allusion to Greek mythology is apt, and something Oppenheimer himself would have enjoyed He was brilliant, and not just in the sciences His interests and his intellect encompassed poetry, philosophy, history, and languages The problem, however, was that he knew his own intelligence, but not its limits This made him overbearing, brusque, impatient, condescending, and inflexible These traits tragic flaws, if you will lead to his downfall at the hands of his Red baiting fellow scientist, Lewis Strauss American Prometheus is a fine book Just fine It is packed full of information It is well sourced It gives the whole sweep of Oppenheimer s life And not just the science The book gets right into the messy details the rampant adultery the alcoholic wife the political tone deafness his callous willingness to name names, once he became famous and his final passive surrender to his enemies Still, I didn t love this book I didn t even like it very much My criticisms, I suppose, can be traced to the subtitle the triumph and the tragedy Oppenheimer s triumph was his role in birthing the atomic bomb The problem, though, is that I can t figure out what he did The book is full of people telling me how great he was, and how the project couldn t have succeeded without him, but this is a case of telling, not showing In fact, I felt the Los Alamos portions of the book, which should have been the most important, were disorganized and confusing I think the problem stems from a lack of context Now, don t get me wrong, I hate physics Indeed, I dislike even simple arithmetic with great passion However, the science is important to this story, and it s just missing from the book The authors break down Oppenheimer s field of quantum physics in one or two un illuminating sentences The achievements of the other scientists are barely mentioned, if they re mentioned at all If I were to read just this book, I would have no idea about the process it took to create the atomic bomb Thankfully, I have read Richard Rhodes masterful The Making of the Atomic Bomb Despite the odd, semi creepy title, this is a remarkable book that combines wonderfully understandable science writing with an eloquent, vivid narrative Once the bomb is dropped, the story moves onto the guilt of the scientists I wouldn t like this part no matter how well it was written The scientists who worked on the bomb, then opposed its use, have always come across as myopic babies They jumped headfirst into a program to create a super bomb, and then reacted with shock shock that it might be dropped on people Hey, geniuses, way to think ahead Their shifting morality is a combination of hypocrisy and shame intended to hide their earlier craven desire to see if the damn thing would work Take a stand and stick with it I don t really care for Edward Teller and his disturbing ruminations on a bomb that could destroy the whole world, but at least he was intellectually consistent and consistently crazy Oppenheimer was at the vanguard of scientists who wanted to be open with the Soviet Union about nuclear arms, thereby hoping to forestall an arms race Maybe this was naive Maybe this might have worked In any event, it s not the kind of position to have if you were ever part of the Communist movement By this time, though, Oppenheimer s ego had inflated to the point where he thought he was untouchable He went around preaching candor while also holding a top secret security clearance as a consultant to the Atomic Energy Commission This proved a mistake, especially while Senator Joseph McCarthy was holding office Eventually, Lewis Strauss orchestrated a kangaroo court hearing in which Oppenheimer was stripped of his security clearance Hence, the tragedy of the subtitle.This period of American history always gets me fiercely agitated and there are few historical figures I hate as much as Joe McCarthy It just boggles my mind McCarthy and his henchman, Richard Nixon among them, essentially managed to outlaw liberalism Anyone who supported unions, or segregation, or equal pay for women, could have their lives destroyed by the flabby, red faced, alcoholic senator from Wisconsin.Those who dare side with McCarthy have always pointed out the fact that the Communist Party had a revolutionary ethos The problem with this argument, though, is that there is a line between literally overthrowing a democratically elected government by force of arms and overthrowing the government democratically which pretty much happened a couple weeks ago in Massachusetts McCarthy and Nixon weren t really interested in protecting America They were interested in protecting themselves, and their positions in government And what better way to do this than make your ideological opponents criminals Thus, Oppenheimer, who at worst was a New Dealer, could have his reputation damaged and his future in government destroyed The Red Scare was a farce, and if there was any justice at all, it was that McCarthy was eventually shunned and died a disgraced drunk at the age of 48 That rant aside, the tragedy of Oppenheimer didn t seem all that terrible It felt, in fact, quite overblown by the authors So he lost his security clearance Big deal He knew this going into the commission, and could have avoided the whole sham trial In fact, Einstein advised him to do this, and Oppenheimer wouldn t listen The lesson here take Einstein s advice, Einstein After losing his clearance, Oppenheimer still had his wealth, his family, the ability to travel the world, and a beach side house in the Virgin Islands I m not exactly weeping for his post revocation life More important to my overall enjoyment of this book was the fact I never really felt connected This isof a personal, ephemeral observation, in the sense that I can t really explain it Certain biographies written by the likes of Caro, Massey, and Morris have touched me profoundly, so that I feel a shiver of sadness as the subject reaches his final days The best biographies can evoke a response startlingly close to empathy Even the greatest of men or women can be dramatically humanized, brought to life, made relatable, so that you understand them as persons, rather than abstract movers of the levers of history American Prometheus didn t provoke that response from me That doesn t mean that this isn t a high class biography, because it is Most people would probably read this book and disagree with my assessment Indeed, there is a bronzed circle on the cover of my book which informs me that the National Book Critics Circle thinks I m an idiot Impressive biography of J Robert Oppenheimer, the nuclear physicist who went from obscurity to international fame as the director of the Manhattan Project, to ignominy and exile over his ambivalence towards nuclear weapons and leftist political views Bird and Sherwin depict Oppenheimer throughout as a genius who, like many great men and women, is riven through with contradictions and personal foibles He s a great lecturer and mentor to students and juniors, but somewhat ill at ease around pee Impressive biography of J Robert Oppenheimer, the nuclear physicist who went from obscurity to international fame as the director of the Manhattan Project, to ignominy and exile over his ambivalence towards nuclear weapons and leftist political views Bird and Sherwin depict Oppenheimer throughout as a genius who, like many great men and women, is riven through with contradictions and personal foibles He s a great lecturer and mentor to students and juniors, but somewhat ill at ease around peers and non scientists a devoted husband to Kitty, his brilliant but mentally troubled wife who nonetheless carried on several affairs his beliefs, a strange admixture of Eastern philosophy, cutting edge physics though, as the authors readily admit,in applying extant theories to practical application and a naivety bordering on credulity towards Communism Indeed, Bird and Sherwin spend much time on Oppenheimer s politics, showing that he moved in the same circles as the Far Left his wife was friends with Steve Nelson, a notorious CPUSA organizer his brother, Frank, joined the Party he attended meetings but spurned recruitment through the idealism that led many New Deal era progressives to find common cause with the Far Left dislike of fascism Oppenheimer was Jewish, with relatives killed in the Holocaust , support for labor reforms and racial justice, which weighedheavily than Stalin s atrocities The book s passages on the Manhattan Project and the development of the A bomb are much lighter on science than, say, Richard Rhodes Making of the Atomic Bomb There semphasis on Oppenheimer s relationships with General Groves and his fellow scientists, the government s ongoing distrust of him which caused him to expel several suspected Soviet spies from the Project and how his scientific enthusiasm vanished as the disturbing ramifications of nuclear weapons become clear Oppenheimer all but renounced his achievements after WWII, leading to investigations by Congress and the FBI, the humiliating revocation of his security clearance and a vagabond life drifting between teaching at Princeton, foreign lectures and warnings about the Cold War For its immersive prose, sharp judgments and capturing Oppenheimer in all his maddening complexity a great man fatally inured to risk, in science, politics and romance this biography stands, in all likelihood, as definitive The trouble with Oppenheimer is that he loves a woman who doesn t love him the United States governmentAlbert Einstein, Quoted in American PrometheusThere is way too exploding in my head after reading this tonight to write a full and even meaningful review I ve always been fascinated with the Manhattan Project and last year read Rhode s amazing book, The Making of the Atomic Bomb I ve also read several of Richard Feynman s memoirs that detail aspects of his work and stories, but this hasThe trouble with Oppenheimer is that he loves a woman who doesn t love him the United States governmentAlbert Einstein, Quoted in American PrometheusThere is way too exploding in my head after reading this tonight to write a full and even meaningful review I ve always been fascinated with the Manhattan Project and last year read Rhode s amazing book, The Making of the Atomic Bomb I ve also read several of Richard Feynman s memoirs that detail aspects of his work and stories, but this has been the fullest investigation I ve read into Oppenheimer s life Things I ll probably write a bit about tomorrow 1 Oppenheimer, and Modern Physicists as founding father s of the modern age.2 The show trials of the AEC.3 Disappointment in Bernard Baruch, Teller, American Institutions, and even Oppenheimer.3 Current atmosphere of suspicion of Science.4 Current atmosphere of extreme vetting and loyalty tests.5 Other Myths for Oppenheimer Pandora s Box or Flying too close to the Sun This is a very thorough book in some respects, and yet it is so narrow in scope I almost want to run out and read another Oppenheimer biography, and some histories that cover the same time period to get the personal details and background history the authors assumed you knew in THIS book Almost.Sure, I m familiar with the basic details of WWII, the McCarthy Era, and the atomic bomb, but if I wasn t this book wouldn t have helped much Instead, the authors follow J Robert Oppenheimer s life in This is a very thorough book in some respects, and yet it is so narrow in scope I almost want to run out and read another Oppenheimer biography, and some histories that cover the same time period to get the personal details and background history the authors assumed you knew in THIS book Almost.Sure, I m familiar with the basic details of WWII, the McCarthy Era, and the atomic bomb, but if I wasn t this book wouldn t have helped much Instead, the authors follow J Robert Oppenheimer s life in detail from birth to death with a laser s focus on every political relationship and communist connection he ever had, so much so everything else is in soft focus The book becomes at times a laundry list of names, connected to their political affiliations and possible communist leanings Even Robert himself is given short shrift to the communist question Every possible Communist connection is examined and re examined so often, I felt like the authors had in effect become Oppenheimer s belated defense team Why did they feel Oppenheimer needed defending, you may be asking Wasn t he a brilliant physicist, the one who headed the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb Yes, he certainly was Everyone in the scientific community was concerned that Germany was developing a bomb, including Oppenheimer, who was especially appalled over what was happening in fascist Germany, and horrified about what was being done to the Jews He was eager to use his scientific skills in service of his country But the power of the bomb that was developed filled him with concern, especially after seeing it used against a Japan that was essentially already defeated.Oppenheimer felt that the use of such weapons should be regulated not just by the U.S., and that secrecy would lead to an arms race with the Soviet Union, and he was right But his advocacy for free sharing of information, and an international committee to guide the use of atomic power was not what the U.S government wanted to hear in the 50s His opposition to the development of the H bomb opened him up to suspicion, and he was investigated by the FBI, including the illegal wiretapping of his phones.Oppenheimer had been working as a professor at Berkeley before the war, and as a liberal thinker he had had friends and family who were Communist, back when that meant opposition to the fascist regime in Spain, and improving social conditions at home He had donated money to various causes through the U.S Communist party, which wasn t unusual for the time His own brother and his wife had been members of the Communist party at one time, although Robert himself never had been All of these connections were used against him by his opponents many years later, in hearings in the 50s.Everything in the book leads up to Oppenheimer s hearings before the Personnel Security Board team put together by General Lewis Strauss, who was determined to both remove Oppenheimer from the Atomic Energy Commission, and remove his security clearance Strauss had clashed with Oppenheimer over the development of the H bomb, and had developed a personal antipathy to the scientist With the tacit consent of President Eisenhower, Strauss set up a star chamber hearing to railroad Oppenheimer out, using unfair tactics such as denying access to evidence and not releasing the list of witnesses to Oppenheimer s lawyers ahead of time Oppenheimer became seen as a Galileo type martyr to the scientific community, and though he was eventually rehabilitated and honored by President Johnson, Oppenheimer never truly recovered from the hearings.All of this part of Oppenheimer s life we get in exhaustive detail What you won t learn so much about is Oppenheimer s personal life, which is present in the book, but not examined Oppenheimer had a magnetic personality, and many relationships with women that we hear just a little about He had affairs, even after his marriage to Kitty, whose previous husband was a Communist who had died fighting in the Spanish Civil War I wanted to knowabout his relationship with Kitty, a tempestuous woman with a big drinking problem We hear that the Oppenheimers gave parties where they lavished their guests with drinks, but then skimped on the food That s fascinating, I wanted to knowabout what was going on there, and hear what people thought about it I wanted to knowabout his children, and how they felt being raised in such a family We get tantalizing bits and pieces about how Robert tried to give his daughter away to another family at Los Alamos, and never bonded with his son, but then we are torn away to hear again aboutCommunist stuff Can you hear my frustration Sure, I figure there is WAYdocumentation out there on the Communist issue, thanks to the FBI, than to Oppenheimer s personal life, and that s what the authors focused on They do a good job of presenting this information chronologically and clearly, and if that s what you re interested in, you won t be disappointed You will get every detail you could ever hope for But if you want to know Oppenheimer, the man, you will only get glimpses here I am in the middle of moving from one country to another, so I just do not have the time to write a decent review of this excellent, marvelous book Please, if you are at all interested in either history or amazing people grab this book soon On closing this book the reader truly understands the atmosphere that swallowed up America during the era of McCarthyism and the Cold War The reader comes to understand Oppenheimer his creativity, his imagination and his failings too The list of the lat I am in the middle of moving from one country to another, so I just do not have the time to write a decent review of this excellent, marvelous book Please, if you are at all interested in either history or amazing people grab this book soon On closing this book the reader truly understands the atmosphere that swallowed up America during the era of McCarthyism and the Cold War The reader comes to understand Oppenheimer his creativity, his imagination and his failings too The list of the latter is long, but boy do I admire the guy There is so much I could tell you about this man who I knew nothing about before I read this book, except his label as the Father of the Atomic Bomb.I don t regret reading Bomb The Race to Build and Steal the World s Most Dangerous Weapon, but the two don t compare You in no way need to read one to read the other The first is about the bomb, the Manhattan project and spying, but this about Oppenheimer is about the person and his era.I listened to the audiobook read by Jeff Cummings I have no complaints with the narration Read the book or listen to it You choose which ever suits you best Just don t add it to one of those never ending lists of books that you don t get around to actually reading It was an interesting read and an interesting life though during the course of it I realised that Oppenheimer didn t appeal to me at all as a person.The background is interesting, particularly the role of Communism in the USA during the Popular Front period of opposition to Fascism before WWII and how that then panned out in the 1950s, ie what had been permissible came to be viewed as criminal even treacherous Purely as a result of this Oppenheimer s younger brother ended up effectively in a fo It was an interesting read and an interesting life though during the course of it I realised that Oppenheimer didn t appeal to me at all as a person.The background is interesting, particularly the role of Communism in the USA during the Popular Front period of opposition to Fascism before WWII and how that then panned out in the 1950s, ie what had been permissible came to be viewed as criminal even treacherous Purely as a result of this Oppenheimer s younger brother ended up effectively in a form of internal exile in the USA unable to work at all in physics.Oppenheimer emerges as a competitive, ambitious figure who was perfectly willing to overlook any moral scruples to have the atomic bomb constructed and then tested Particularly interesting was how the team involved in developing the Atom bomb campaigned to have two Japanese target towns reserved for them to test the bomb out on there s a discussion of the cost effectiveness of the development of the atomic bomb over investment in conventional weaponry in The Shock of the Old that is worth looking at in this context view spoiler broadly arguing that the decision to develop an atomic weapon lengthened the duration of the war by diverting resources away from producing conventional weapons hide spoiler.This is also a life in science and worth reading for picture of how the new physics of the early 20th century was transmitted by Oppenheimer and others who were partially educated in Europe and then propagated those ideas in the USA in the pre war period Personally, all that I new about J Robert Oppenheimer was his time during Project Manhattan and a few details about his show trial in 1954 This book managed to bring a lotcontext to these events and show me as close it is possible the real Oppenheimer What else can I say, this is probably the best biography of J Robert Oppenheimer there is and together with Richard Rhodes Making of the Atomic Bomb and Dark Sun makes the penultimate atomic trilogy. American Prometheus The Triumph and Tragedy of J Robert Oppenheimer was the Pulitzer prize winning book in 2006 This was a comprehensive biography of J Robert Oppenheimer and the birth of Los Alamos and the atomic bomb, devised to bring the end to World War II with the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki The irony of this book may be that Oppenheimer, as a young man, came to New Mexico, finding not only himself, but that he loved this beautiful country Many years later, I think that a re American Prometheus The Triumph and Tragedy of J Robert Oppenheimer was the Pulitzer prize winning book in 2006 This was a comprehensive biography of J Robert Oppenheimer and the birth of Los Alamos and the atomic bomb, devised to bring the end to World War II with the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki The irony of this book may be that Oppenheimer, as a young man, came to New Mexico, finding not only himself, but that he loved this beautiful country Many years later, I think that a regret that he had was bringing the attention of the world to northern New Mexico he craved the exhilaration and the invigorating calmness induced by Perro Caliente There was a rhythm now to his life intense, intellectual work, at times to the point of near exhaustion, followed by a month orof near exhaustion, followed by a month orof renewal on horseback in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico We learned to watch the snow on the Sangres, and to look for deer in Water Canyon, Phil Morrison later wrote, with a lyricism that reflected the emotional attachment to the land that seized many residents We found that on the mesas and the valley that there was an old and strange culture there were our neighbors, the people of the pueblos, and there were the caves of Otowi canyon to remind us that other men had sought water in the dry land Having spent my early childhood in Los Alamos, I am still very conflicted about that time in our history Oppenheimer was not only the choice of General Groves, but also the one who was able to assemble a group of physicists and scientists to come to a remote part of the United States and pioneer this daunting project Much of the genius of Oppenheimer was his uncanny ability to ferret out the best talent and to relentlessly pursue that talent and to motivate and inspire them However, the underlying and dark theme throughout this book was the hysteria that was rampant in the 1950 s about communism.This is also a tale of a very complex man, not only a brilliant scientist and leader and a true twentieth century Renaissance Man , but one who was devastated with the human toll that was wrought with the unleashing of the science that he had shepherded This was a man who was well versed in Shakespeare and The Bhagavad Gita, who spent many years urging nuclear arms controlToday that pride must be tempered with a profound concern If atomic bombs are to be added as new weapons to the arsenals of a warring world, or to the arsenals of nations preparing for war, then the time will come when mankind will curse the names of Los Alamos and HiroshimaJ Robert Oppenheimer on October 16, 1946We may be likened to two scorpions in a bottle, each capable of killing the other, but only at the risk of his own lifeJ Robert Oppenheimer, 1953 American Prometheus The Triumph and Tragedy of J Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J Sherwin is an outstanding biography of J Robert Oppenheimer Oppenheimer was a fascinating individual and this book does him justice As I was reading this biography I was struck by the parallels between Oppenheimer s life and Alan Turing s life They had similar backgrounds, played major roles in World War Two and in the development of modern technology, led lives filled with both triumph and tra American Prometheus The Triumph and Tragedy of J Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J Sherwin is an outstanding biography of J Robert Oppenheimer Oppenheimer was a fascinating individual and this book does him justice As I was reading this biography I was struck by the parallels between Oppenheimer s life and Alan Turing s life They had similar backgrounds, played major roles in World War Two and in the development of modern technology, led lives filled with both triumph and tragedy, and even had mysterious incidents involving a poison apple I would love to see someone write a dual biography of Oppenheimer and Turing I m not sure if these two ever met in person I hope to find out soon but they traveled in some of the same circles including the Institute for Advanced Study One other thought This book is not as detailed on the science of the development of the atomic bomb I think a good complementary scientific book is The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in 20th Century history, nuclear war, or biographies Rating 5 out of 5 stars Notes Audiobook Narrated by Jeff Cummings Length 26 hours and 30 minutes Unabridged Audiobook Release Date 2007 03 28 Publisher Blackstone Audio, Inc "/>
  • Paperback
  • 721 pages
  • American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer
  • Kai Bird
  • English
  • 10 February 2019
  • 1843547058