J. Robert Oppenheimer: A Life

J. Robert Oppenheimer: A Life

by Abraham Pais, Robert P. Crease
     
 

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The Late Abraham Pais wrote the definitive biography of Albert Einstein, Subtle is the Lord, which won an American Book Award. Now Pais offers an illuminating portrait of another eminent physicist, J. Robert Oppenheimer, one of the most charismatic and enigmatic figures of modern science. Pais introduces us to a precocious youth who sped through Harvard in three years…  See more details below

Overview

The Late Abraham Pais wrote the definitive biography of Albert Einstein, Subtle is the Lord, which won an American Book Award. Now Pais offers an illuminating portrait of another eminent physicist, J. Robert Oppenheimer, one of the most charismatic and enigmatic figures of modern science. Pais introduces us to a precocious youth who sped through Harvard in three years, made signal contributions to quantum mechanics while in his twenties, and was instrumental in the growth of American physics in the decade before the Second World War, almost single-handedly putting American physics on the map. Pais paints a revealing portrait of Oppenheimer's life in Los Alamos, where in twenty remarkable, feverish months, under his inspired leadership, the first atomic bomb was designed and built, a success that made Oppenheimer America's most famous scientist. Pais, who was his next-door neighbor for many years, describes Oppenheimer's long tenure as Director of the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton. But Pais also shows how Oppenheimer's intensity and arrogance won him powerful enemies, who would ultimately make him one of the principal victims of the Red Scare of the 1950s. Told with compassion and deep insight, J. Robert Oppenheimer is the most comprehensive biography of the great physicist available. It is Abraham Pais's final work, completed after his death by Robert P. Crease, an acclaimed historian of science in his own right.

About the Author:
Abraham Pais was Detlev W. Bronk Professor Emeritus at The Rockefeller University in New York City

About the Author:
Robert P. Crease is Chairman of and Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the StateUniversity of New York, Stony Brook, and historian at Brookhaven National Laboratory

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Back in the 1990s, when Pais ("Subtle Is the Lord...") began to seriously consider writing about Oppenheimer, there was no full-scale biography of the scientist who led America's effort to create the atom bomb. But with a surfeit of books about Oppenheimer in the last year, this one comes too late-and suffers greatly in comparison to Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin's more comprehensive and cogent American Prometheus. Though Pais, a physicist as well as a science writer, was a close colleague of Oppenheimer's at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Studies, he is largely incurious about the parts of his subject's life that he didn't observe personally. He does little more than acknowledge the Manhattan Project, for example, noting that it has been covered elsewhere, and dismisses Oppenheimer's wife as despicable with barely any supporting evidence. Some chapters are assembled by lengthy quotes from secondary sources, others by anecdote, some barely developed past outline form; none are particularly engrossing. Pais died before he could write about the political hearings that cost Oppenheimer his security clearance and public reputation. The final chapters covering this period, written by Crease, a historian at Brookhaven National Laboratory and author of The Prism and the Pendulum, are such a marked improvement that one wishes he'd produced a biography on his own. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"An indispensable new look at the ever-enigmatic Oppenheimer."—Booklist (starred review)

"A gripping review of the man who really created the atomic bomb and fought to stop the hydrogen bomb. Read this book and find out why."—"Talk of the Town" (WTVF)

"Abraham Pais, master of the scientific biography, waited 20 years before tackling his enigmatic neighbor and friend at Princeton.... Faithfully supplemented by historian Robert P. Crease, the result is a personal recollection as tormented as the atomic father's own soul."—Seed Magazine

"J. Robert Oppenheimer was an extraordinarily brilliant and complex man. In this book Abraham Pais and Robert Crease take a kaleidoscopic approach to his life, shedding insightful light on the personality and the times of the scientist who played such an important role in the future destiny of mankind."—C. N. Yang

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195166736
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
04/01/2006
Pages:
400
Product dimensions:
9.30(w) x 6.30(h) x 1.50(d)

Meet the Author

Abraham Pais was Detlev W. Bronk Professor Emeritus at The Rockefeller University in New York City. A leading theoretical physicist, he was also an esteemed science writer, the author of 'Subtle is the Lord...' for which he won the American Book Award, Inward Bound: Of Matter and Forces in the Physical World, Niels Bohr's Times, and several other books.

Robert P. Crease is a Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, and historian at Brookhaven National Laboratory. His most recent book is The Prism and the Pendulum: The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments in Science.

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