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American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer par [Bird, Kai, Sherwin, Martin J.]
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American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer Reprint , Format Kindle

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Description du produit


Chapter 1
In the first decade of the twentieth century, science initiated a second American revolution. A nation on horseback was soon transformed by the internal combustion engine, manned flight and a multitude of other inventions. These technological innovations quickly changed the lives of ordinary men and women. But simultaneously an esoteric band of scientists was creating an even more fundamental revolution. Theoretical physicists across the globe were beginning to alter the way we understand space and time. Radioactivity was discovered on March 1, 1896, by the French physicist Henri Becquerel. Max Planck, Marie Curie and Pierre Curie and others provided further insights into the nature of the atom. And then, in 1905, Albert Einstein published his special theory of relativity. Suddenly, the universe appeared to have changed.

Around the globe, scientists were soon to be celebrated as a new kind of hero, promising to usher in a renaissance of rationality, prosperity and social meritocracy. In America, reform movements were challenging the old order. Theodore Roosevelt was using the bully pulpit of the White House to argue that good government in alliance with science and applied technology could forge an enlightened new Progressive Era.

Into this world of promise was born J. Robert Oppenheimer, on April 22, 1904. He came from a family of first- and second-generation German immigrants striving to be American. Ethnically and culturally Jewish, the Oppenheimers of New York belonged to no synagogue. Without rejecting their Jewishness they chose to shape their identity within a uniquely American offshoot of Judaism—the Ethical Culture Society—that celebrated rationalism and a progressive brand of secular humanism. This was at the same time an innovative approach to the quandaries any immigrant to America faced—and yet for Robert Oppenheimer it reinforced a lifelong ambivalence about his Jewish identity.

As its name suggests, Ethical Culture was not a religion but a way of life that promoted social justice over self-aggrandizement. It was no accident that the young boy who would become known as the father of the atomic era was reared in a culture that valued independent inquiry, empirical exploration and the free-thinking mind—in short, the values of science. And yet, it was the irony of Robert Oppenheimer’s odyssey that a life devoted to social justice, rationality and science would become a metaphor for mass death beneath a mushroom cloud.

Robert’s father, Julius Oppenheimer, was born on May 12, 1871, in the German town of Hanau, just east of Frankfurt. Julius’ father, Benjamin Pinhas Oppenheimer, was an untutored peasant and grain trader who had been raised in a hovel in “an almost medieval German village,” Robert later reported. Julius had two brothers and three sisters. In 1870, two of Benjamin’s cousins by marriage emigrated to New York. Within a few years these two young men—named Sigmund and Solomon Rothfeld—joined another relative, J. H. Stern, to start a small company to import men’s suit linings. The company did extremely well serving the city’s flourishing new trade in ready-made clothing. In the late 1880s, the Rothfelds sent word to Benjamin Oppenheimer that there was room in the business for his sons.

Julius arrived in New York in the spring of 1888, several years after his older brother Emil. A tall, thin-limbed, awkward young man, he was put to work in the company warehouse, sorting bolts of cloth. Although he brought no monetary assets to the firm and spoke not a word of English, he was determined to remake himself. He had an eye for color and in time acquired a reputation as one of the most knowledgeable “fabrics” men in the city. Emil and Julius rode out the recession of 1893, and by the turn of the century Julius was a full partner in the firm of Rothfeld, Stern & Company. He dressed to fit the part, always adorned in a white high-collared shirt, a conservative tie and a dark business suit. His manners were as immaculate as his dress. From all accounts, Julius was an extremely likeable young man. “You have a way with you that just invites confidence to the highest degree,” wrote his future wife in 1903, “and for the best and finest reasons.” By the time he turned thirty, he spoke remarkably good English, and, though completely self-taught, he had read widely in American and European history. A lover of art, he spent his free hours on weekends roaming New York’s numerous art galleries.

It may have been on one such occasion that he was introduced to a young painter, Ella Friedman, “an exquisitely beautiful” brunette with finely chiseled features, “expressive gray-blue eyes and long black lashes,” a slender figure—and a congenitally unformed left hand. To hide this deformity, Ella always wore long sleeves and a pair of chamois gloves. The glove covering her left hand contained a primitive prosthetic device with a spring attached to an artificial thumb. Julius fell in love with her. The Friedmans, of Bavarian Jewish extraction, had settled in Baltimore in the 1840s. Ella was born in 1869. A family friend once described her as “a gentle, exquisite, slim, tallish, blue-eyed woman, terribly sensitive, extremely polite; she was always thinking what would make people comfortable or happy.” In her twenties, she spent a year in Paris studying the early Impressionist painters. Upon her return she taught art at Barnard College. By the time she met Julius, she was an accomplished enough painter to have her own students and a private rooftop studio in a New York apartment building.

All this was unusual enough for a woman at the turn of the century, but Ella was a powerful personality in many respects. Her formal, elegant demeanor struck some people upon first acquaintance as haughty coolness. Her drive and discipline in the studio and at home seemed excessive in a woman so blessed with material comforts. Julius worshipped her, and she returned his love. Just days before their marriage, Ella wrote to her fiancé: “I do so want you to be able to enjoy life in its best and fullest sense, and you will help me take care of you? To take care of someone whom one really loves has an indescribable sweetness of which a whole lifetime cannot rob me. Good-night, dearest.”

On March 23, 1903, Julius and Ella were married and moved into a sharp-gabled stone house at 250 West 94th Street. A year later, in the midst of the coldest spring on record, Ella, thirty-four years old, gave birth to a son after a difficult pregnancy. Julius had already settled on naming his firstborn Robert; but at the last moment, according to family lore, he decided to add a first initial, “J,” in front of “Robert.” Actually, the boy’s birth certificate reads “Julius Robert Oppenheimer,” evidence that Julius had decided to name the boy after himself. This would be unremarkable—except that naming a baby after any living relative is contrary to European Jewish tradition. In any case, the boy would always be called Robert and, curiously, he in turn always insisted that his first initial stood for nothing at all. Apparently, Jewish traditions played no role in the Oppenheimer household.

Sometime after Robert’s arrival, Julius moved his family to a spacious eleventh-floor apartment at 155 Riverside Drive, overlooking the Hudson River at West 88th Street. The apartment, occupying an entire floor, was exquisitely decorated with fine European furniture. Over the years, the Oppenheimers also acquired a remarkable collection of French Postimpressionist and Fauvist paintings chosen by Ella. By the time Robert was a young man, the collection included a 1901 “blue period” painting by Pablo Picasso entitled Mother and Child, a Rembrandt etching, and paintings by Edouard Vuillard, André Derain and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Three Vincent Van Gogh paintings—Enclosed Field with Rising Sun (Saint-Remy, 1889), First Steps (After Millet) (Saint-Remy, 1889) and Portrait of Adeline Ravoux (Auvers-sur-Oise, 1890)—dominated a living room wallpapered in gold gilt. Sometime later they acquired a drawing by Paul Cézanne and a painting by Maurice de Vlaminck. A head by the French sculptor Charles Despiau rounded out this exquisite collection.*

Ella ran the household to exacting standards. “Excellence and purpose” was a constant refrain in young Robert’s ears. Three live-in maids kept the apartment spotless. Robert had a Catholic Irish nursemaid named Nellie Connolly, and later, a French governess who taught him a little French. German, on the other hand, was not spoken at home. “My mother didn’t talk it well,” Robert recalled, “[and] my father didn’t believe in talking it.” Robert would learn German in school.

On weekends, the family would go for drives in the countryside in their Packard, driven by a gray-uniformed chauffeur. When Robert was eleven or twelve, Julius bought a substantial summer home at Bay Shore, Long Island, where Robert learned to sail. At the pier below the house, Julius moored a forty-foot sailing yacht, christened the Lorelei, a luxurious craft outfitted with all the amenities. “It was lovely on that bay,” Robert’s brother, Frank, would later recall fondly. “It was seven acres . . . a big vegetable garden and lots and lots of flowers.” As a family friend later observed, “Robert was doted on by his parents. . . . He had everything he wanted; you might say he was brought up in luxury.” But despite this, none of his childhood friends thought him spoiled. “He was extremely generous with money and material things,” recalled Harold Cherniss. “He was not a spoiled child in any sense.”

By 1914, w...

Revue de presse

—"Four decades after his death, J. Robert Oppenheimer has finally received the indepth, insightful, and judicious biography he deserves. This book is a fascinating portrait of a brilliant and tragic life, and of America in the nuclear age."
—Eric Foner

"This fascinating and thoughtful book brilliantly captures the political and scientific struggles of the early atomic age. Oppenheimer's triumphs and trials show how public policy, scientific genius and private character become interwoven. Bird and Sherwin have triumphed in turning their prodigious research about the father of the bomb into a poignant narrative."
—Walter Isaacson

“This superb biography provides fresh revelations and penetrating insights about the complex and fascinating personality of Robert Oppenheimer. American Prometheus, is meticulously researched, eloquently written and a joy to read. The account of his 1954 trial is spellbinding.”
—Robert S. Norris, author of Racing for the Bomb, General Leslie R. Groves the Manhattan Project’s Indispensable Man

“American Prometheus is the best--most thoroughly researched and most convincingly argued--study of J. Robert Oppenheimer to date. It is not only a great biography but also a cautionary tale about the excesses of government in a time of fear. No one interested in 20th-century America can afford to ignore this book.”
—Robert Dallek

“The political drama is enhanced by the close attention to Oppenheimer’s personal life,...restoring human complexity to a man who had been both elevated and demonized.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Compelling, definitive...Funneling more than 25 years of research into a captivating narrative, the authors bring needed perspective to Oppenheimer’s radical activities in the 1930s, and they reprise the familiar story of the Manhattan Project thoroughly...Where Bird and Sherwin are without peer, however, is in capturing the humanity of the man behind the porkpie hat.”
Booklist, starred review

“A swiftly moving narrative full of morality tales and juicy gossip. One of the best scientific biographies to appear in recent years.”
Kirkus, starred review

“A masterful account—a tour de force, 25 years in the making—of Oppenheimer’s rise and fall, set in the context of the turbulent decades of American’s own transformation.”
—Gerald Holton, Front page, Los Angeles Times

“Comprehensive, finely judged where it most matters, and sometimes revelatory . . . Bird and Sherwin capture all the drama and exhilaration and ironic glory (of Los Alamos) . . . and show how well he anticipated our own world, where nuclear materials and technologies percolate through shadowy networks.”
—James Gleick, Front page, Washington Post Book World

“A nuanced and exacting portrait.”
—Elizabeth Svoboda, Front page San Francisco Chronicle

“The definitive biography...Oppenheimer’s life does not influence us. It haunts us.”
–Malcom Jones, Newsweek

“A work of voluminous scholarship and lucid insight, unifying its multifaceted portrait with a keen grasp of Oppenheimer’s essential nature...charm and bravado on the surface, Dostoyevskian darkness underneath.”
–Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“In this stunning blockbuster, two accomplished Cold War historians have come together to tell Robert Oppenheimer’s poignant and extraordinary story.”
–Lawrence D. Freedman, Foreign Affairs

“Superb...A vivid portrait is painted of a charismatic, immensely human theoretical physicist, who was as talented as he was complex.”
–Ike Seamans, The Miami Herald

"A masterpiece of scholarship and riveting writing that brings vividly to life the complicated and often enigmatic Oppenheimer."
—Eric Arnesen, The Chicago Tribune

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 7672 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 721 pages
  • Editeur : Vintage; Édition : Reprint (18 décembre 2007)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • Synthèse vocale : Non activée
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  • Lecteur d’écran : Pris en charge
  • Composition améliorée: Activé
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.0 étoiles sur 5 1 commentaire client
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Format: Broché Achat vérifié
J'enlève une étoile parce que le format broché est écrit très très petit. Pour le reste, la biographie est passionnante, à la hauteur du génie d'Oppenheimer. On peut retenir les qualités de chef de projet d'Oppenheimer dirigeant des prix Nobel, le remords du savant ayant réalisé une arme de destruction massive, la politique qui transforme Oppenheimer de héros en paria, la rivalité avec l'inventeur de la bombe H, Edouard Teller, l'anticipation de la théorie des trous noirs, et même la beauté sauvage du Nouveau Mexique...Un vrai roman.
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) (Peut contenir des commentaires issus du programme Early Reviewer Rewards) 4.6 étoiles sur 5 305 commentaires
14 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 One of the greatest ever.... 17 novembre 2015
Par Robert Seidenberg - Publié sur
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
I bought this book used. But doesn't much matter. One of the most enlightening and provocative books I have read. Opened my eyes to how our Government in those days basically ruined a man who had previous developed a bomb that defeated Japan. It gave me a totally different impression of Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower. What a tragic loss for a brilliant scientist like Robert Oppenheimer. In the end, unfortunately, his bad habit of chain smoking ended his life. It was sad that his ashes now sit on the bottom of the ocean near St. John. There are few, unfortunately, who come along and make a difference in this world, and Oppenheimer is one of them. Had it not been for him, we might not be living at all. The H-bomb could have wiped us off the face of the earth, and he fought valiantly to make sure that did not happen. God speed, Robert and rest in peace. Thanks to the authors who brought this man to us to admire, at least for a while.
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 required reading for every physics student 11 août 2016
Par Daniel H. Shubin - Publié sur
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Excellent. Not just a thorough biography of the man and his family and work, but also at the same time a history of the development of the atomic bomb. What is good is the objective treatment of the author of the realization in later years that WW2 was already ending and the bomb was used for political and military purposes, meaning, to beat the Russians from getting a part of Japan involvement and the actually damage that can occur from such a weapon, and that it was used twice, when once was more than enough. How Oppenheimer voiced his opinion against weapons proliferation was used against him and ruined his health in later years. He could have accomplished more in atomic research but political opponents would not allow him. Oppenheimer persevered and was given an award by President Johnson, but hardly enough for the persecution he endured. The tragedy of his children's lives was the result of their having to deal with the repercussions father Oppenheimer endured from members of government and military and even of his own scientific community. He was a victim of the Joe McCarthy era of suspected communist affiliation of many, although this was a weapon his opponents used due to envy of his accomplishments and his dedication to physics. He never got a Nobel Prize, but several of his students did.
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Searching Portrait of a Compelling American Hero 23 avril 2014
Par Kevin T. Keith - Publié sur
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
Bird and Sherwin have produced what must be the definitive biography of Robert Oppenheimer, finding his unique personality and his remarkable gifts in every facet of his life, from childhood to scientific/political triumph to his persecuted twilight. The book - 25 years in the making! - is exhaustively researched and illuminates the trajectory of his life in intimate detail from beginning to end.

Oppenheimer's reputation, of course, rests on his unprecedented and unequaled achievement in planning and running the Manhattan Project to its final earth-shaking success in August 1945, and secondarily on his post-war role as sachem of nuclear policy and his political destruction by Cold War hawks who resented his warnings about the threat to peace from unlimited nuclear competition. But Bird and Sherwin give each stage of Oppenheimer's life its due, including his gilded childhood, his troubled educational years, his rise to scientific prominence as the reigning American exponent of the new physics in the 1930s, and finally his mordant recasting as, essentially, speaker for the dead in the unstoppable post-war madness. Though Oppenheimer's life, from the late '30s on, was shaped and dominated by the atomic bomb he birthed and regretted, each successive period in that life was filled with its own personal drama and with the characteristically quirky incidents in which Oppenheimer tended to enmesh himself, and which said so much about his complex personality. The result is a comprehensive and balanced reading of the man through the whole of his life; the Manhattan Project and its aftermath loom large, as they have to, but they do not obscure the fact that there was a real person underneath those historic events, and that person comes through in a rich, subtle, and - inevitably - somewhat inconclusive portrait.

The authors do not shy away from writing their own opinions into the story, giving reasonable interpretations of the many controversial incidents in Oppenheimer's life, but which are clearly interpretations nevertheless. The book is deeply researched and the events are reported with clear and extensive factual support; it is easy to read their reconstructions of the history as authoritative. It is necessary to remind oneself that other interpretations are possible, however compelling these authors are in their presentation. At the same time, the authors are open about identifying their own interpretations as such; the material seems fairly and honestly presented, and the authors' conclusions are convincing.

The story of the Manhattan Project has been told many times, and this volume adds little to what is already known, though it illuminates the terrible strain of the project on Oppenheimer in a powerful way. The dramatic story of the Trinity test is told here in personalized fragments of detail about numerous individuals - rather than a technical focus on the Gadget - that gives that history a new and unique meaning. The treatment of the AEC investigation that led to Oppenheimer being stripped of his security clearance and government advisory role is perhaps the strongest part of the whole book - a tour de force of historical research, reportorial detail, and logical interpretation that makes it abundantly clear how shockingly dishonest that process was, and what a contrived and deliberate campaign of personal destruction drove it. Throughout, Oppenheimer's fascinating and often self-destructive personality is illuminated in intriguing detail. There is no part of the volume that does not make fascinating reading.

It seems likely that "American Prometheus" will be the touchstone biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer for the foreseeable future (and, probably, forever: this will likely be the last major such work grounded so fully on primary research among surviving figures from Oppenheimer's life). It is strongly recommended to anyone with an interest in Oppenheimer as a person, as a scientist, and as a world figure. It is not a major contribution to the history of the Manhattan Project in its practical aspects, but does illuminate many of the personalities involved and life on "the Hill" during the project. It is exhaustive and authoritative on the subject of Oppenheimer's pre-war political dalliances and his post-war persecution. All in all, it is a moving, compelling, often heart-breaking study of an unique, difficult, indispensable American.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 This is one of the best books I have ever read 11 février 2017
Par Patricia M. Huston - Publié sur
Format: CD Achat vérifié
This is one of the best books I have ever read. Oppenheimer was an incredible person and even though he was the "father of the Atomic bomb", he was intelligent enough to realize that it must never be used again in war. He helped win WWII and was treated so unfairly by the government that asked him to do it.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 One of the most captivating books I have read! 28 juin 2016
Par PaddyVA - Publié sur
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
Hard to put down, ending in tears at the tragedy of Robert and his family., and enraged by the injustices of Lewis Strauss, Joseph McCarthy, and the Republican Party!

Twenty five years of research in the writing of this book. A great historical and human document. Don't miss reading it!
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