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American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer | [Kai Bird, Martin J. Sherwin]

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

J. Robert Oppenheimer was one of the iconic figures of the 20th century, a brilliant physicist who led the effort to build the atomic bomb but later confronted the moral consequences of scientific progress. When he proposed international controls over atomic materials, opposed the development of the hydrogen bomb, and criticized plans for a nuclear war, his ideas were anathema to powerful advocates of a massive nuclear buildup during the anti-Communist hysteria of the early 1950s.
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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, Biography/Autobiography, 2006

National Book Critics Circle Award, Biography, 2006

J. Robert Oppenheimer is one of the iconic figures of the 20th 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 himself confronting the moral consequences of scientific progress.

When he proposed international controls over atomic materials, opposed the development of the hydrogen bomb, and criticized plans for a nuclear war, his ideas were anathema to powerful advocates of a massive nuclear buildup during the anti-Communist hysteria of the early 1950s. They declared that Oppenheimer could not be trusted with America's nuclear secrets.

In this magisterial biography, 25 years in the making, the authors capture Oppenheimer's life and times, from his early career to his central role in the Cold War.

©2005 Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin; (P)2007 Blackstone Audio Inc.

What the Critics Say

"The definitive biography...Oppenheimer's life doesn't influence us. It haunts us." (Newsweek)

"[A] profoundly fascinating, richly complex, and ineffably sad American life.... Bird and Sherwin are without peer...in capturing the humanity of the man." (Booklist)

"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." (New York Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (899 )
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3.9 (510 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Spencer Fullerton, CA, United States 10-05-11
    Spencer Fullerton, CA, United States 10-05-11 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting View of an American Scientist"

    The only disturbing thing about this book is that the audio quality changes every few minutes. As if they cut and pasted segments that were recorded with different settings. It's very distracting.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Roland Henrico, VA, United States 07-14-11
    Roland Henrico, VA, United States 07-14-11 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    18
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    "too much is too much"

    The book is written like an English class assignment.."write a very long essay about an important american, minimum length 600 pages." If you want to know what kind of underwear he wore, and what his mother had to say about it, and how his fifth-grade teacher influenced him to change it, and what he packed for lunch, listen to this book. I've had this recording a year now, and keep going back to it, because Oppenheimer's story should be fascinating, amazing. But I can't get through it. Socialist/communist parents, brilliant kid, instrumental in managing the development of the atomic bomb for the defense of the US, an outspoken patriot, then ostracized by a reactive element of the US Govt. (remember McCarthy and the red scare?). How could this story be told in such a way as to be so deadly dull? How could his every encounter with key American figures at such a pivotal time in our history be so anesthetic? The author manages.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Don Fresno, CA, United States 07-09-11
    Don Fresno, CA, United States 07-09-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "An interesting listen."

    I really enjoyed this book. It gets a little slow in places where the author develops the history and back story, but overall it was an amazing book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    missgrundy San Francisco, CA 02-03-11
    missgrundy San Francisco, CA 02-03-11 Member Since 2010

    Fine art photographer, retired English professor, dog mom to an adorable Maltese mix, long-time Californian, genealogist, what else?

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent, but . . ."

    I would give this very good book a five-star rating but for the *horrible* editing -- the places where something was re-recorded are so plentiful and so distracting (at some points, literally every other sentence), that it took an effort of will to not hit the "Stop" button. Only my great interest in the subject matter kept me going. The authors do an excellent job of detailing both the elevation and destruction of Oppenheimer as a public figure, and while the narrative is sometimes a bit dry, in the end it is a fascinating -- and infuriating -- story. The lengths people went to, to destroy him, the blatant anti-Semitism of the times -- I'd like to think we're so far beyond that, now, but I fear we're not. It's an excellent book; highly recommended, if you can overlook the editing mess.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    08-29-10
    08-29-10 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A story little taught, in history or physics"

    4.5 stars, actually. I found it immensely informative history of Robert Oppenheimer and his times in physics. This is a very different perspective on many of his famous contemporaries. Readers might be interested in visiting the first large scale nuclear reactor, the B Reactor, at Hanford, WA. Tours are now available to the public.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brian ANCHORAGE, AK, United States 08-16-09
    Brian ANCHORAGE, AK, United States 08-16-09 Member Since 2005

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent.....!"

    Great listen about the arms race to nuclear power and the very interesting man behind it all. A must listen for history fans.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jack annapolis, MD, United States 08-01-09
    jack annapolis, MD, United States 08-01-09
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    "A different time"

    The milieu that spawned Dr. Oppenheimer and the complexity and enormous ego of his character is presented in detail. From his early idealistic years of quantum physic and looking for Utopia at Berkely; to the war years of monomanical devotion to the development of the atomic bomb at Los Alamos; to his postwar roll as a superhero at Princeton; to the American inquisition of the early 1950's that persecuted mostly Jewish scientists and destroyed almost all theoretical science in this country,at Washinton D.C. is well detailed. Dr. Oppenheimer was indeed a tragic character. His massive ego prevented him from dealing with his tormenter Lewis Strauss in a politic and judicious manner and resulted in his professional destruction. The reconstruction of his life in this book is awesome.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brandon Denver, CO United States 07-02-09
    Brandon Denver, CO United States 07-02-09 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "tedious in parts, yet revealing and worthwhile"

    At its best, this book unearths great details about Oppenheimer which reveal insight into his unique personality, genius and life's work. It also sheds light on how he and his work impacted US foreign policy and the world long after WWII.

    Unfortunately, the potential to be a 4 or 5 star was dashed by hours of tedious and repetitve details of FBI investigations, administrative security clearance hearings and people who are completely tangential.

    Let's face it...26 hours (700+ pages) about one man is just too much. The authors did great work, but could have used a better editor.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    R. H. Wolverton 08-31-10 Member Since 2008

    Okthorse

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Oppenheimer apologist"

    This book is disappointing. Instead of being a biography, this excessively long text retries Julius Robert Oppenheimer (JRO). The author works desperately to convince the reader that JRO was never a member of the Communist Party. If you don't have a strong opinion about JRO's involvement with the Communist Party, this book will be very disappointing.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Douglas Auburn, WA, United States 08-29-09
    Douglas Auburn, WA, United States 08-29-09 Member Since 2008

    College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Powerful and informative"

    The reader into entirely drawn into Oppenheimer's world: both personal and scientific. Wonderful book!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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