J. Robert Oppenheimer is among the most contentious and important figures of the twentieth century. As head of the Los Alamos Laboratory, he oversaw the successful Allied effort to beat the Nazis in the race to develop the first atomic bomb - a breakthrough which was to have eternal ramifications for mankind, and made Oppenheimer famous as the 'father of the Bomb'.
The son of German-Jewish immigrants, Oppenheimer was a man of diverse interests and phenomenal intellectual attributes, driven by an ambition to overcome his status as an outsider and penetrate American political and social life. His talent and drive also allowed him as a young scientist to enter a community peopled by the great names of twentieth-century physics - men such as Bohr, Born, Dirac and Einstein - and to play a role in the laboratories and classrooms where the world was being changed forever, a world where the secrets of the universe, be they held within atomic nuclei or collapsing stars, revealed themselves.
But Oppenheimer's was not a simple story of assimilation, scientific success and world fame. He was a complicated and fragile personality. The implications of the discoveries at Los Alamos were to weigh heavily upon him. In the 1930s, in a climate already thick with paranoia and espionage, he would make suspicious connections, and in the wake of Allied victory his attempts to resist the escalation of the Cold War arms race would lead many to question his loyalties. This was to set him on a dangerous collision course with Senator Joseph McCarthy and his witch hunters.
As with Ray Monk's peerless biographies of Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russell, Inside the Centre is a work of towering scholarship. A story of discovery, secrecy, impossible choices and unimaginable destruction, it goes deeper than any previous work in revealing the motivations and complexities of this most brilliant and divisive of men.show more