A Life in Twilight: The Final Years of J. Robert Oppenheimer

Mark Wolverton, Author . St. Martin's $25.95 (339p) ISBN 978-0-312-37440-2

The man who headed America's top-secret atom-bomb program was branded a security risk in 1954 because of personal enmities, past associations with leftists and his opposition to the hydrogen bomb. Nuclear physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer seemed ruined. This near-worshipful biography charts Oppenheimer's comeback as liberal icon and scientific sage. Oppenheimer, writes journalist Wolverton (The Science of Superman ), became a globe-trotting “philosopher-poet of science,” extolling freedom of inquiry and delivering physics lectures to lay audiences that didn't understand his equations but were enraptured by “the steady gaze, the soft but powerful voice, the precisely measured gestures, the subtle facial expressions of his mind at work.” He proved equally hypnotic as a political symbol. Right-wingers tried to bar him from campus speaking engagements while liberals and the scientific community championed him as a martyr to McCarthyism. Wolverton, who intersperses a rehash of Oppenheimer's rigged 1954 security hearing and reproduces documents from his ridiculous FBI surveillance file, comes down on the latter side. Filled with speeches and minor furors, Oppenheimer's third act lacks drama, but it opens a revealing window onto the intellectual climate of the cold war. 5 b&w photos. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 09/01/2008
Release date: 11/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-4299-5328-3
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