Robert Oppenheimer, the American theoretical physicist and “father of the atomic bomb”, continues to be hailed as one of the towering figures in 20th-century science. Friend and colleague of the great names in theoretical physics, and charismatic leader of outstanding teams of researchers at Caltech, Berkeley and finally Princeton, he was a man whose huge intellectual curiosity and energy also embraced literature, poetry and philosophy. Thousands of pages of biography have been devoted to this complicated and controversial figure since his early death from throat cancer in 1967. Yet Oppenheimer remains an enigma, “an endlessly, maddeningly and intriguingly baffling man”, as Ray Monk wrote in 2004, reviewing Jeremy Bernstein’s perceptive memoir Oppenheimer: Portrait of an Enigma. Now, in Inside the Centre: The Life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the much-lauded biographer Monk has himself taken on the task of trying to make sense of him.
more from Lisa Jardine at the FT here.