20 March 2008

American Prometheus -- Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of 20th century physics as well as the life of Robert Oppenheimer. This book also gives great insight into many of the interesting themes in America during the cold war. This reaches a climax with Dr. Oppenheimer's security hearing in 1954. It is actually difficult to talk about this book besides that it was highly informative and entertaining.

The fact that this man actually lived the life detailed in this book is amazing. His life reads more like some fantastic movie that is too improbable to be believable. I mean he was quintessential in the creation of the atomic bomb and the creation of one of the greatest theoretical physics departments in the world; and all the while the FBI had him under illegal surveillance. Just the names who he worked with are in themselves impressive: Bohr, Heisenberg, Feynman, Lawrence, Einstein, von Neumann, and the list goes on and on.

This book does not simply derive its value from the incredible highs and lows of Oppenheimer's life. Additionally, the extremely detailed and thorough scholarship and research that was put into this book makes history truly come alive. As objective as a biography can be and as well written as one could hope for. Once again, highly recommended.

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