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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 (931 )
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4.2 (545 )
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3.9 (536 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Joel 12-03-11
    Joel 12-03-11

    lost-in-dixie

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A thoroughly told, captivating story"

    A demonstration of fate in action....of how every event in our lives shapes
    what we will become.....and what should be the shame of an ungrateful nation.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Fernando Rockport, MA, United States 11-09-11
    Fernando Rockport, MA, United States 11-09-11 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excelent book, but ....."

    This is an excelent book, you will learn a lot about this man and his life not only the good but also the bad, the only thing i did not like was the narrator.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer FRESNO, CA, United States 10-21-11
    Amazon Customer FRESNO, CA, United States 10-21-11 Member Since 2011

    I am a professional photographer, a motorcyclist, and an avid reader and listener. I enjoy history, business books and

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    ratings
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    Story
    "A long story of a complicated man"

    I like this book, it's long and with much detail about a complicated man, a man who could be charming and engaging and at the same time rude and egotistical. Oppenheimer helped shaped much of the ideas of the nuclear age yet in the end, his views differed to much from those in power and he was humiliated by loosing his security clearance and becoming an outsider. Cummings reading was a little dry and the production values were not great as you could often hear when he stopped and started with changes in voice or volume. Good, not great. If I could, I would have given it 2.5 stars.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eric Maui, Hawaii, United States 10-11-11
    Eric Maui, Hawaii, United States 10-11-11 Member Since 2011

    Audiobooks Make Weed Wacking a Pleasure

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting and long biography."

    This is a really really long audiobook. Very detailed and occasionally repetitive. Did I mention it was really long? The narrator apparently went back and re-recorded most, but not all of his mispronunciations. For example, Lewis Strauss pronounced his name "straws" so the narrator went back and re-recorded every sentence that contained Strauss. The problem is that it sounds like he re-recorded these sentences in his car with a cheap cassette recorder. It's not even obvious that the same narrator made these corrections. Other reviews have mentioned the differences in the audio, and that was charitable. It's really annoying. Yes, there are mispronunciations, like Bhagavad Gita. The audio engineer had no business releasing the audiobook in this condition. And I should mention that the audiobook is really long.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Spencer 10-05-11
    Spencer 10-05-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    11
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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
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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
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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!

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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
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