Robert Oppenheimer: A Life
Robert Oppenheimer: A Life
Robert Oppenheimer: A Life
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Price: $21.96 FREE for Members
Type: eBook
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Page Count: 396
Format: pdf
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0195166736
User Rating: 4.3333 out of 5 Stars! (3 Votes)

Robert Oppenheimer: A Life ebook

Abraham Pais ebook

From 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Scientific American

Before you mutter "Not another book about Oppenheimer," recall that the author of this one--the late Abraham Pais--wrote what is arguably the most comprehensive biography of Albert Einstein, Subtle Is the Lord, which won a National Book Award. In the present book, Pais (who was a distinguished theoretical physicist) once again combines his sophisticated understanding of the science and his insider's knowledge of the man (he was Oppenheimer's next-door neighbor for many years) to produce a stunning portrait. Historian of science Crease completed the book after Pais's death.


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| 3 out of 5 Stars!

Not For The Non-Professional


While I generally agree with the authors of the reviews below that this book provides insight into Oppenheimer's character, the development of IAS, and the inner workings of the Manhattan Project, I did not find this biography helpful in understanding either Oppenheimer's scientific work or the wider scientific research in quantum theory in which he played a role. I took to reading the "science" chapters with my laptop, set to Wikipedia, at my side, because -- perhaps because he died before revising or expanding the chapters that he had completed -- Pais does not define, let alone explain, any of the concepts and theories underlying Oppenheimer's research, but merely summarizes those ideas as though he were addressing an audience of science professionals. While no scientist, I'm not a science illiterate. Yet I understood very few of the descriptions in this book of Oppenheimer's actual scientific work. Therefore, I'd recommend this bio to readers interested in learning more about Oppenheimer's life, the history of IAS and the birth of the atomic age, but not to those nonscientists who want to learn more about Oppenheimer's research.

| 5 out of 5 Stars!

Gripping True Story

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

| 5 out of 5 Stars!

The best book on Oppie at IAS


There have been several good biographies of Oppenheimer in the past few years. As biographies the others are probably better. This book though has two real advantages over the others:

First, Abraham Pais was a physicist himself. He worked with Oppenheimer and knew all or most of the significant physicists involved with atomic energy during and after the war. His insights on the physics being done at the time is very insightful.

Second, Oppenheimer is most known for Los Alamos and the Manhattan Project. But after that, after he lost his security clearance Oppenheimer was head of the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton. This is where Pais knew him and it is in this part of his life that this book excells.

Oppenheimer was an enigmatic person. He was certainly an accomplished physicist. Not perhaps the equal of the very best, but clearly on the first string. Oppenheimer's work in physics earned him what might be called an honorable mention in the history books. Oppenheimer's work as a manager of the project and as director of the institute required not brilliance in physics but managerial capabilities far beyond those exhibited by other physicists of the time (with the possible exception of Edward Teller).

Oppenheimer's expulsion from Government service over security issues was one of the travesties of the McCarthy era. It seems though that his subsequent work at the IAS gave him enough pleasure that he was not unhappy. He continued to work at the forefront of physics.

If you want to know more about Oppenheimer's life before and during the war, look to other books. If you want some insight into his later life and into the depth of his character, this is the best book I have found.

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