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The Biographies of J. Robert Oppenheimer: Desert Saint or Destroyer of Worlds

The Biographies of J. Robert Oppenheimer: Desert Saint or Destroyer of Worlds THE BIOGRAPHIES OF J. ROBERT OPPENHEIMER: DESERT SAINT OR DESTROYER OF WORLDS LINDSEY MICHAEL BANCO In 2005, sixty years after the scientifi c director of the Manhattan Project looked out over the New Mexico desert and witnessed the result of eighteen months of work on what was then the world’s largest and most expensive sci- entifi c endeavor, there appeared no fewer than four biographies of J. Robert Oppenheimer. That moment marked, among other things, an important re- assessment of the histories, legacies, and meanings of both Oppenheimer him- self and the nuclear culture that emerged following that world’s fi rst atomic explosion on July 16, 1945. That such a reassessment could manifest itself in a spate of biographies speaks to the importance of the genre for understand- ing postwar nuclear culture and other changing aspects of American science during that time. This persistent retelling of the life of a scientist also raises a number of questions: How are we to make our way through the different narratives? What do the biographies tell us about the role of Oppenheimer’s life story in understanding the atomic age? How do we manage the “irresist- ibly cultural” (203) similarities Robert M. Young http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Biography University of Hawai'I Press

The Biographies of J. Robert Oppenheimer: Desert Saint or Destroyer of Worlds

Biography , Volume 35 (3) – Jan 3, 2013

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Publisher
University of Hawai'I Press
Copyright
Copyright © Biographical Research Center
ISSN
0162-4962
eISSN
1529-1456

Abstract

THE BIOGRAPHIES OF J. ROBERT OPPENHEIMER: DESERT SAINT OR DESTROYER OF WORLDS LINDSEY MICHAEL BANCO In 2005, sixty years after the scientifi c director of the Manhattan Project looked out over the New Mexico desert and witnessed the result of eighteen months of work on what was then the world’s largest and most expensive sci- entifi c endeavor, there appeared no fewer than four biographies of J. Robert Oppenheimer. That moment marked, among other things, an important re- assessment of the histories, legacies, and meanings of both Oppenheimer him- self and the nuclear culture that emerged following that world’s fi rst atomic explosion on July 16, 1945. That such a reassessment could manifest itself in a spate of biographies speaks to the importance of the genre for understand- ing postwar nuclear culture and other changing aspects of American science during that time. This persistent retelling of the life of a scientist also raises a number of questions: How are we to make our way through the different narratives? What do the biographies tell us about the role of Oppenheimer’s life story in understanding the atomic age? How do we manage the “irresist- ibly cultural” (203) similarities Robert M. Young

Journal

BiographyUniversity of Hawai'I Press

Published: Jan 3, 2013

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