Robert Oppenheimer

  • by Ray Monk
  • Narrated by Michael Goldstrom
  • 35 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.

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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)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

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!
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- aaron

A comprehensive biography

This lengthy (700 pages or 36 hours audio book) book aspires to be a comprehensive biography of Robert Oppenheimer. Monk covers more of the Oppenheimer’s work and love of physics than some other of the biographers.

Monk goes into the German-Jewish tradition into which Oppenheimer was born and the ethical cultural belief that shaped his family and education. The author claims Oppenheimer was so brilliant that Harvard University forgot its anti-Semitic discrimination. Monk follows “Oppie’s” education from Harvard, Cambridge and to Gottingen University. The author tells of Oppenheimer fluency in French and his love of French literature, he also wrote poetry and learned Sanskrit. Oppenheimer also spoke German and Dutch. In 1927 Oppenheimer co wrote with Max Born a paper entitled “On the Quantum Theory of Molecules”. This paper helped “Oppie” become known in the field of Physics.

The author cover in great detail Oppenheimer‘s teaching jobs at Caltech and the University of California Berkeley. When I took physics at UC Berkeley my professors were proud to have been students of Oppenheimer and E. Lawrence. He was able to pass on to his students his love of physics. Monk then covers the time at the lab in Los Alamos and the work on the bomb. The author covers the two pillars of Oppenheimer’s life. His scientific leadership role in WWII atomic bomb project and his status as a martyr of the McCarthy era after the 1954 security hearing that stripped him of his clearance.

The remainder of the book Monk describes Oppenheimer’s years leading the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Monk provides by far the most thorough survey yet written of Oppenheimer’s physics and his work on neutron stars and black holes. His paper he wrote in 1938-39 was considered his most important theoretical work of his career. But “Oppie” died in 1967 before astronomical discoveries made his work relevant. He lost his chance for a Nobel Prize because they cannot be given posthumously. The book kept my attention throughout the 36 hours. Michael Goldstrom did a good job narrating the book.
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- Jean

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-14-2013
  • Publisher: Random House Audio