American Prometheus: The Tragedy and Triumph of J. Robert Oppenheimer
by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin
2022 Mar 05
2022 Mar 24
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.
Notes & Highlights
Oppie told his audience that he was not going to argue with the president’s motives and aims—but “we are 140 million people, and there are two billion people living on earth.” However confident Americans might be that their views and ideas will prevail, the absolute “denial of the views and ideas of other people, cannot be the basis of any kind of agreement”
Earlier in 1953, the British Broadcasting Corporation had invited him to give the prestigious Reith Lectures, a series of four talks broadcast to millions of people around the world.
…thought that a powerful, nuclear-armed America could act unilaterally, Oppenheimer intoned, “The problem of doing justice to the implicit, the imponderable, and the unknown is of course not unique in politics. It is always with us in science, it is with us in the most trivial of personal affairs, and it is one of the great problems of writing and of all forms of art. The means by which it is solved is sometimes called style. It is style which complements affirmation with limitation and with humility; it is style which makes it possible to act effectively, but not absolutely; it is style which, in the domain of foreign policy, enables us to find a harmony between the pursuit of ends essential to us, and the regard for the views, the sensibilities, the aspirations of those to whom the problem may appear in another light; it is style which is the deference that action pays to uncertainty; it is above all style through which power defers to reason.”