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Robert Oppenheimer: A Life Inside the Center | [Ray Monk]

Robert Oppenheimer: A Life Inside the Center

Robert Oppenheimer was among the most brilliant and divisive of men. As head of the Los Alamos Laboratory, he oversaw the successful effort to beat the Nazis in the race to develop the first atomic bomb – a breakthrough that was to have eternal ramifications for mankind and that made Oppenheimer the “Father of the Atomic Bomb.” But with his actions leading up to that great achievement, he also set himself on a dangerous collision course with Senator Joseph McCarthy and his witch-hunters. In Robert Oppenheimer: A Life Inside the Center, Ray Monk, author of peerless biographies of Ludwig Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russell, goes deeper than any previous biographer in the quest to solve the enigma of Oppenheimer’s motivations and his complex personality.
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Publisher's Summary

Robert Oppenheimer was among the most brilliant and divisive of men. As head of the Los Alamos Laboratory, he oversaw the successful effort to beat the Nazis in the race to develop the first atomic bomb – a breakthrough that was to have eternal ramifications for mankind and that made Oppenheimer the “Father of the Atomic Bomb.” But with his actions leading up to that great achievement, he also set himself on a dangerous collision course with Senator Joseph McCarthy and his witch-hunters. In Robert Oppenheimer: A Life Inside the Center, Ray Monk, author of peerless biographies of Ludwig Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russell, goes deeper than any previous biographer in the quest to solve the enigma of Oppenheimer’s motivations and his complex personality.

The son of German-Jewish immigrants, Oppenheimer was a man of phenomenal intellectual attributes, driven by an ambition to overcome his status as an outsider and penetrate the heart of political and social life. As a young scientist, his talent and drive allowed him to enter a community peopled by the great names of twentieth-century physics – men such as Niels Bohr, Max Born, Paul Dirac, and Albert Einstein – and to play a role in the laboratories and classrooms where the world was being changed forever, where the secrets of the universe, whether within atomic nuclei or collapsing stars, revealed themselves.

But Oppenheimer’s path went beyond one of assimilation, scientific success, and world fame. The implications of the discoveries at Los Alamos weighed heavily upon this fragile and complicated man. In the 1930s, in a climate already thick with paranoia and espionage, he made suspicious connections, and in the wake of the Allied victory, his attempts to resist the escalation of the Cold War arms race led many to question his loyalties.

Through compassionate investigation and with towering scholarship, Ray Monk’s Robert Oppenheimer tells an unforgettable story of discovery, secrecy, impossible choices, and unimaginable destruction.

©2013 Ray Monk (P)2013 Random House Audio

What the Critics Say

"A highly detailed examination of the life and times of Robert Oppenheimer ... Monk does full justice to Oppenheimer's irreplaceable contribution to the development of nuclear energy during and after World War II ... A top-notch biography." (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

"In this deeply humanizing biography, Monk invites readers to contemplate the unexpected evil—and good—in the man known as the "father of the A-bomb." ... Monk delves deeper than any predecessor into Oppenheimer's inner life ... perceptive and detailed, this portrait illuminates a potent but complex mind." (Booklist, starred review)

“A tour de force … [it] will establish itself as the definitive biography.” (Financial Times)

What Members Say

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  •  
    david chesapeake, VA, United States 09-14-13
    david chesapeake, VA, United States 09-14-13 Member Since 2009

    A fellow listener inclined to share my opinion on these productions. Maybe even inspire someone toward a powerful, or educational audiobook!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Nearly Perfect"

    He is a human being like the rest of us with some remarkable interests. This was a wonderful book for shedding light on, and expanding my understanding of the Manhattan Project. That is a pretty cool thing, being a Feynman fan it is cool to get stories that cross paths with his life line. This book gives us a peek into the lives of other great physicists of that age too which I also enjoyed. It is written well enough to have you emotionally attached and sympathizing for him as the course of his life is unfolded in such a seemingly complete way. Bravo to Ray Monk! If while reading(or listening) to a book I am brought to empathetic tears I am a fan. This book did that for me, as well as educated me on historical and physical matters concerning some of the most exciting parts of United States history.

    The narrator was perfect by my standards. My standards require for perfection a voice that is not annoying, and few pronunciation errors throughout the production. This fits that descriptions.

    I am not sure, but believe this is not in the Science and Technology section of Audible. I mention that because this was a book I believe I would have purchased long ago had it been cataloged there. I found this on the shelves of a Barnes and Noble and thought I would type it in to the search bar on Audible just for shits and giggles, and to my surprise it was there. Anyway, with some of the technical aspects of the science being done in the history observed in this book, Ray Monk gets very descriptive. That was a plus for me, but may seem unnecessary to many reader. The author also gives a short argument in the beginning of the book defending these lengthy technical inclusions.

    This is well worth the credit!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    aaron los angeles, CA, United States 05-23-13
    aaron los angeles, CA, United States 05-23-13 Member Since 2008

    Let's face it, these authors aren't paying me, so there's no need to lie!!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "One of the BEST biographies on Audible!!"

    Oppenheimer was one of the most important people in the history of mankind, when you consider how he contributed to science, and the development/harnessing of atomic energy. Talk about a world creator/destroyer; this was that guy! A genius like him comes around but once every century or so. Monk does a superb job in researching the complex life of a complex man.

    It easily could've gotten bogged down in meaningless details, but never did. It held my interest throughout. If you care at all about physics, science, or the history of nuclear weapons, this is the book for you.

    As far as biographies go, this is top 5 of the ones I've read. I've read over 50.

    Narrator is outstanding!

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eee Switzerland 08-11-13
    Eee Switzerland 08-11-13 Member Since 2003
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    "Marathon, but worth it"

    A really interesting time in science and politics. The start of the 20th century was an amazing time in physics, especially - this book is very much focused development of quantum theory, so called "modern physics" and an understanding of the structure of atoms and molecules. If you don't have a working knowledge of the science - e.g., if you don't know anything about the structure of atoms, a tiny bit about quantum theory, radioactivity - you might find this overwhelming. The bio is long on Oppenheimer's interactions with fellow scientists, and the science itself, although there is no math, no formulae - so it is palatable.

    Oppenheimer was an interesting character. Not always an especially nice person, very intense, full of contradictions. But he wrangled a group of elite scientists to create the atom bomb in a relatively short period of time, and for this, he was absolutely brilliant. Despite being completely loyal to the US, he was a Communist sympathiser in the 1930's, and this came back to him in the 1950's when he lost his security clearance. A series of events that has some relevance to today - pettiness, hysteria, ego, and abuse of power. Interesting times. Not much has changed.

    But it's a good listen, if the subject interests you.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William James USA 05-09-14
    William James USA 05-09-14 Member Since 2013

    Dare to dream...

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Drab"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    The book could have been half as long if the storyline did not present a mini biography on everyone before Oppenheimer's birth and everyone during Oppenheimer's life who may have come in contact with Oppenheimer.


    What could Ray Monk have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    This book should have stuck to the subject.


    What about Michael Goldstrom’s performance did you like?

    Great performance!


    Do you think Robert Oppenheimer needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    No.... Why beat a dead horse?


    Any additional comments?

    This was a waste of time. I kept waiting for the storyline to get back to the subject but when it did return it would quickly veer off to focus on some other character who MAY have influenced Oppenheimer's life.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julius Dublin 12-09-13
    Julius Dublin 12-09-13 Member Since 2013
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    ""This isn't even that good" or is it ?"
    Any additional comments?

    9/10 on this book. It is a fantastically good read/listen.

    I started off not knowing anything about Dr. Oppenheimer besides that he was involved in the development of the first ever nuclear bomb. The first hour of the book I was quite not amused, mainly because of finely detailed his childhood was being talked about. Once It got to the stage where the book started talking about Dr. Oppenheimer in his teens, that is where this book became the most interesting thing I have ever listened to.

    Really really interesting. I would recommend it to everyone, especially people of the scientific background who want to learn about one of the greatest theoretical physicist of the last century.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Gibson Bay Area, San Francisco 10-28-13
    Mark Gibson Bay Area, San Francisco 10-28-13

    Author, consultant and thought-leader on problems at intersection of sales and marketing

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    "Gripping in-depth life of the man and the A-bomb"
    What made the experience of listening to Robert Oppenheimer the most enjoyable?

    Very well written and narrated. At 35 hours a marathon, but in-depth insights revealed a complex character and natural leader who stepped up when called and who played a pivotal role in pulling the Manhattan Project together and the atomic bomb that changed the World forever.

    The post-war persecution of Oppenheimer by J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI, Lewis Strauss and their paranoid communist-under-the-bed affiliates and the insights into the formation of the congressional, military and industrial complex were insightful.

    Oppenheimer's post war speeches are timeless and worthy of replaying today as they warn against the dangers of militarism and the stifling of freedom of speech and thought.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Robert Oppenheimer?

    The formation of the A-bomb scientific team, the brilliant scientists and greatest gathering of nobel laureates ever to work together on one project.


    Which character – as performed by Michael Goldstrom – was your favorite?

    Wonderfully read by Goldstrom.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Oppenheimer and the Atomic Bomb


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joshua Waterloo, IL, United States 10-04-13
    Joshua Waterloo, IL, United States 10-04-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting"
    Where does Robert Oppenheimer rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    It was educational but very long


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    Goes into way to much detail about oppenheimers parents and other siblings


    Have you listened to any of Michael Goldstrom’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I haven't


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    The unknown genius


    Any additional comments?

    Its an interesting listen

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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