Two ambitious men. One historic mission. With a blinding flash in the New Mexico desert in the summer of 1945, the world was changed forever. The bomb that ushered in the atomic age was the product of one of history's most improbable partnerships. The General and the Genius reveals how two extraordinary men pulled off the greatest scientific feat of the 20th century. Leslie Richard Groves of the Army Corps of Engineers, who had made his name by building the Pentagon in record time and under budget, was made overlord of the impossibly vast scientific enterprise known as the Manhattan Project. His mission: to beat the Nazis to the atomic bomb. So he turned to the nation's preeminent theoretical physicist, J. Robert Oppenheimer - the chain-smoking, martini-quaffing son of wealthy Jewish immigrants, whose background was riddled with communist associations - Groves' opposite in nearly every respect. In their three-year collaboration, the iron-willed general and the visionary scientist led a brilliant team in a secret mountaintop lab and built the fearsome weapons that ended the war but introduced the human race to unimaginable new terrors. And at the heart of this most momentous work of World War II is the story of two extraordinary men - the general and the genius.
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Not exactly about the General and the Genius
As a Title The General and Genius suggests that this book will explore the relationship between the general in charge of the Manhattan Project and the scientist who led the technical team in developing the atom bomb. There was a relationship between the two men but not one of mutual collaboration or friendship beyond the fact that General Groves was in charge and Robert Oppenheimer led the scientific team at Los Alamos. This was not a story about an unlikely partnership. The story is more about the work that went on at Los Alamos from that perspective and with other projects, teams, and General Groves on the periphery. You learn something about Leslie Groves - that he was strictly military and felt that the team at Los Alamos should be under military rule. He felt that without him the scientists would play at experiments, chew the fat around the water cooler, have two hour lunches, and go home at 3. You don't learn all that much about Oppenheimer; he grew up on Riverside Drive, was very skinny, he smoked a lot, he was a scientist, was generally well liked and respected, and got thrown under the bus after the war while Groves more or less watched. That aside you do learn a lot about what it was like to work at Los Alamos for the 2 to 3 years before the bomb was finished, and you do get a good grounding on some of the technical details, obstacles, and challenges. Only at the very end is the question of the use of the bomb in war and controlling it explored and then it becomes fascinating.
This book is not fiction and so the needs of the narration do not require much in the way of accents, change of gender, or drama. The book is very well read by Malcolm Hillgartner with great clarity and a steady pace.
Great context and detail
- Christopher Long