The first full-scale biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer, sets forth Oppenheimer’s life and times in revealing and unprecedented detail. Exhaustively researched, it is based on thousands of records and letters gathered from archives in America and abroad, on massive FBI files and on close to a hundred interviews with Oppenheimer’s friends, relatives and colleagues.
Those who dare to take on this book will find that, contrary to stereotype, physics can be a real thriller. Dogged researchers and elegant writers, Bird and Sherwin recount the history of one of America's greatest (and most reviled) scientists, the leader of the Manhattan Project ... A time-consuming read, but worth it: this Pulitzer Prize winner is an American epic.
In this midst of such voluminous scholarship, how can Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin's American Prometheus purport to be 'the first full-scale biography? The reason, beyond its having the best title, is its span ... These authors compile all of it under a single roof ... American Prometheus is a work of voluminous scholarship and lucid insight, unifying its multifaceted portrait with a keen grasp of Oppenheimer's essential nature ... While its forte is clearly not physics, American Prometheus does capture the world in which Oppenheimer established his credentials: thick with future Nobelists, bristling with innovation, cattily competitive ... American Prometheus is a thorough examination and synthesis, sometimes overwhelming in its detail.
American Prometheus is clear in its purpose, deeply felt, persuasively argued, disciplined in form, and written with a sustained literary power. It is still recognizably Sherwin’s book, giving new emphasis to arguments first made in A World Destroyed, but at the same time Bird has brought freshness and clarity along with some interpretive ideas of his own.