Inside The Centre by Ray Monk
The Life of J. Robert Oppenheimer

73%

8 Critic Reviews

Monk retells this great 20th-century tragedy magnificently, in measured English prose, not Time journalese.
-Guardian

Synopsis

Robert Oppenheimer was among the most brilliant and divisive of men. As head of the Los Alamos Laboratory, he oversaw the successful effort to beat the Nazis in the race to develop the first atomic bomb—a breakthrough that was to have eternal ramifications for mankind and that made Oppenheimer the “Father of the Atomic Bomb.” But with his actions leading up to that great achievement, he also set himself on a dangerous collision course with Senator Joseph McCarthy and his witch-hunters. In Robert Oppenheimer: A Life Inside the Center, Ray Monk, author of peerless biographies of Ludwig Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russell, goes deeper than any previous biographer in the quest to solve the enigma of Oppenheimer’s motivations and his complex personality.
     The son of German-Jewish immigrants, Oppenheimer was a man of phenomenal intellectual attributes, driven by an ambition to overcome his status as an outsider and penetrate the heart of political and social life. As a young scientist, his talent and drive allowed him to enter a community peopled by the great names of twentieth-century physics—men such as Niels Bohr, Max Born, Paul Dirac, and Albert Einstein—and to play a role in the laboratories and classrooms where the world was being changed forever, where the secrets of the universe, whether within atomic nuclei or collapsing stars, revealed themselves.
     But Oppenheimer’s path went beyond one of assimilation, scientific success, and world fame. The implications of the discoveries at Los Alamos weighed heavily upon this fragile and complicated man. In the 1930s, in a climate already thick with paranoia and espionage, he made suspicious connections, and in the wake of the Allied victory, his attempts to resist the escalation of the Cold War arms race led many to question his loyalties.
     Through compassionate investigation and with towering scholarship, Ray Monk’s Robert Oppenheimer tells an unforgettable story of discovery, secrecy, impossible choices, and unimaginable destruction.
 

About Ray Monk

See more books from this Author
RAY MONK is the author of Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius, for which he was awarded the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the Duff Cooper Prize, and a two-volume biography of Bertrand Russell. He is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton.
 
Published May 14, 2013 by Anchor. 882 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, War, Science & Math. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Inside The Centre
All: 8 | Positive: 5 | Negative: 3

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by George Johnson on Jun 28 2013

...an impressive work that stands as a strong challenger to other contenders. But I’m not sure it has brought us that much closer to the man.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Janet Maslin on May 27 2013

Other biographers have seen Oppenheimer at closer range, in living color.

Read Full Review of Inside The Centre: The Life o... | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Ben Shephard on Dec 15 2012

Monk retells this great 20th-century tragedy magnificently, in measured English prose, not Time journalese.

Read Full Review of Inside The Centre: The Life o... | See more reviews from Guardian

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Ben Shephard on Dec 16 2012

The tension between Oppenheimer's two sides – his need to be at the centre of power versus his wish to retain his conscience – lie at the heart of Ray Monk's wonderful new biography.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Steven Shapin on Nov 16 2012

It's not obvious that this is a privileged way of understanding.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
on May 20 2013

This grand biography illuminates the genius of a fascinating scientist as driven by his own research as he was driven to lead and inspire others.

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WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by Carl Rollyson on May 17 2013

...to understand the whole man, one must understand why Oppenheimer did not win a Nobel Prize and why he did not carry on his work in nuclear physics. Mr. Monk finesses this about as well as a biographer can...

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Kirkus

Excellent
on Mar 24 2013

A top-notch biography of Oppenheimer to sit alongside Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin’s American Prometheus...

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