American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Hardcover)

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer By Kai Bird, Martin J. Sherwin Cover Image
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THE INSPIRATION FOR THE ACADEMY AWARD®-WINNING MAJOR MOTION PICTURE OPPENHEIMER • "A riveting account of one of history’s most essential and paradoxical figures.”—Christopher Nolan

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • PULITZER PRIZE WINNER • The definitive biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer, one of the iconic figures of the twentieth century, a brilliant physicist who led the effort to build the atomic bomb for his country in a time of war, and who later found himself confronting the moral consequences of scientific progress.

In this magisterial, acclaimed biography twenty-five years in the making, Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin capture Oppenheimer’s life and times, from his early career to his central role in the Cold War. This is biography and history at its finest, riveting and deeply informative.

“A masterful account of Oppenheimer’s rise and fall, set in the context of the turbulent decades of America’s own transformation. It is a tour de force.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review

“A work of voluminous scholarship and lucid insight, unifying its multifaceted portrait with a keen grasp of Oppenheimer’s essential nature.... It succeeds in deeply fathoming his most damaging, self-contradictory behavior.” —The New York Times

About the Author


Kai Bird is the author of The Chairman: John J. McCloy, The Making of the American Establishment and The Color of Truth: McGeorge Bundy and William Bundy, Brothers in Arms. He coedited with Lawrence Lifschultz Hiroshima’s Shadow: Writings on the Denial of History and the Smithsonian Controversy. A contributing editor of The Nation, he lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

Martin J. Sherwin is the Walter S. Dickson Professor of English and American History at Tufts University and author of A World Destroyed: Hiroshima and Its Legacies, which won the Stuart L. Bernath Prize, as well as the American History Book Prize. He and his wife live in Boston and Washington, D.C.

Praise For…


—"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


Product Details
ISBN: 9780375412028
ISBN-10: 0375412026
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: April 5th, 2005
Pages: 736
Language: English