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Inside The Centre: The Life of J. Robert Oppenheimer Hardcover – 15 Nov 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 832 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape; 1st Edition edition (15 Nov. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 022406262X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224062626
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 5.1 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 197,656 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"An extraordinarily rich biography, superbly researched and written with impressive clarity." (The Times)

"You don't need to know your quantum physics to be gripped by Monk's doorstop study of the momentous life of J Robert Oppenheimer… Monk serves his subject well by sparing us neither the worst nor the best in him." (Ed Caesar Sunday Times)

"Superlative." (Boyd Tonkin Independent)

"Illuminating." (Nature)

"[A] fine biography... Oppenheimer has already been served well by biographers. However, Monk here takes the scholarship to a new level." (BBC History Magazine)

Book Description

A story of discovery, secrecy, impossible choices and unimaginable destruction: Robert Oppenheimer, his life and the first atomic bomb.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A. Jogalekar on 21 Dec. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When news came of this new biography of Robert Oppenheimer, Oppenheimer fans like myself were naturally inclined to ask, "What's new"? In the past decade or so there have been several portraits and biographies of the father of the atomic bomb, with the culmination of these efforts being Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin's Pulitzer Prize-winning volume "American Prometheus". With so many around, do we need another biography?

In this case the answer is a qualified yes. Monk who is the acclaimed biographer of Wittgenstein and Russell has produced a thoughtful and insightful portrait that covers a lot of the same ground as other books but also sheds much clearer insights into Oppenheimer's character and a handful of key events from his life. The book is titled "Inside the Centre", both as a reference to Oppenheimer's wish to be at the center of science and policy, as well as an allusion to his own lack of a unifying center. The book is very well-written and presents a judicious balance of detail and broader discussion. The writing is clear and crisp, although not particularly eloquent, and delivers a solid, authoritative account of the subject matter.

Monk's main goal is to illuminate the central dilemma of Oppenheimer's life; that of identity. His second goal is to pay attention to those aspects of Oppenheimer's science which have been glossed over by other biographers. Oppenheimer was a brilliant, complex individual who excelled at a variety of things, an astonishingly quick thinker and wide-ranging intellectual who was as much at home with Sanskrit and French literature as with theoretical physics. Yet he was a man who kept on searching for a core identity that would hold it all together.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dr. R. Brandon TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 4 Feb. 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is a monumental work, a dense, forensic analysis of the early life and lifetime career of Robert Oppenheimer, often referred to as the `Father of the Atom Bomb'. The reader must be prepared for lots of discussion around the nature of the atom and advances in particle physics, which was at the very heart of Oppenheimer's life work. It has to be said that the author, Ray Monk, is very able at explaining in easy to assimilate sections the quite detailed and, at times, really quite advanced science involved in the story. Whilst Oppenheimer did some very important and original work in astro-physics, his contributions to particle physics and quantum theory are limited, his main role and success was that of an inspirational leader and champion of those working in the field.
Whilst the book clearly charts the life and career of Oppenheimer, it is at the same time a detailed story of the development of both the atomic bomb and the so-called hydrogen bomb. I have not previously read such a careful treatment of the science associated with the production of these weapons. Monk has a real talent for informing the reader about the numerous complimentary scientific breakthroughs that contributed to the success of the building of the bomb and at the same time capturing something of the excitement that these discoveries generated in the nuclear physics community. Marvellous character details are provided of many of the leading players in the field, who to a man, and they were all men, have fascinating and diverse personalities.
Robert Oppenheimer was a very complicated and often misunderstood person, highly intelligent, ferociously hardworking, cultivated and able to charm at times, but on other occasions arrogant, able and willing to ridicule those less smart, rude and untrustworthy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David M. on 4 Mar. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Let me apologise if this sounds like an advertisement, but the book is certainly the best biography I have ever read. Although I understand the physics, and have read other works about Oppenheimer and many of his colleagues, I couldn't put it down. Neither could a friend to whom I leant it. The book reads almost like a pot-boiler, but the research and quality of the writing are both excellent. I was fascinated to discover all sorts of details and anecdotes of which I was unaware, including yet another brilliant line from Dirac. Anyone with an interest in the Manhattan Project, its protagonists and its aftermath, must read this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. A. P. W. Dean on 29 May 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have had a lingering interest in the nuclear arms development of the mid twentieth century, watching documentaries and reading articles that I have come across in any way related to the subject. I therefore came to this biography with a limited and populist scope of knowledge. After reading what was such an informative, thorough and scholarly exposition of the life of a man about so much has already been written, I have inherited Ray Monk's evident passion and feel subsequently determined to pursue my burgeoning interest in physics even further. This is testament to the author's masterly ability to not only drive to the heart of his subject, but also to make his subject's interests so engaging and relevant that they become your own.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kw Gibson on 27 Jan. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
You really have to be into this subject to like this book. There is quite a lot of technical speak but this is balanced by detailed information on the person. Much food for thought about the ethics of producing the atom bomb.
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