Abraham Pais J. Robert Oppenheimer: A Life

ISBN 13: 9780195166736

J. Robert Oppenheimer: A Life

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9780195166736: J. Robert Oppenheimer: A Life
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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. As a distinguished physicist and Einstein's colleague, Pais combined a sophisticated understanding of physics with first-hand knowledge of this notoriously private individual, offering rare insights into both. It is his unique double perspective that makes his work so valuable.
Now Abraham Pais offers an illuminating portrait of another eminent colleague, J. Robert Oppenheimer, one of the most charismatic and enigmatic figures of modern physics. 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 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.

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About 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.

From Booklist:

*Starred Review* "We pursue him, and he eludes us." So John Leonard remarked about the maddeningly elusive physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. And now the controversial scientist has slipped beyond the grasp of Pais, the much-acclaimed biographer of Einstein and Bohr. Pais, a longtime colleague of Oppenheimer, long postponed the writing of this life study because of deep personal ambivalence toward the man who presided over the making of America's first atomic bomb only to fall victim to McCarthy-era hysteria. As a consequence of that delay, Pais died before finishing his book. Surprisingly, readers may find that an unintentionally truncated book actually highlights the troubling incompleteness that Pais perceives in Oppenheimer's character. For although Pais details Oppenheimer's rare achievements as a researcher, teacher, and administrator, the portrait he finally delivers is that of a brilliant but arrogant mind falling short of lofty expectations. To the end of his life, Oppenheimer harbored a bitter consciousness of having himself failed to achieve any epoch-making discovery in the science he tirelessly promulgated. Pais' account of the personal contradictions within the man makes an excellent counterpoint to Bird and Sherwin's American Prometheus (2005), the award-winning, full-dress biography of Oppenheimer in which the emphasis falls on the more public side of his life, the Manhattan Project and its aftermath. In context with Bird and Sherwin, Pais offers an indispensable new look at the ever-enigmatic private Oppenheimer. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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ISBN 10:  0195327128 ISBN 13:  9780195327120
Publisher: Oxford University Press, 2007
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