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Oppenheimer: The Tragic Intellect

Thorpe, CR; (2006) Oppenheimer: The Tragic Intellect. University of Chicago Press: Chicago, London.

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Abstract

At a time when the Manhattan Project was synonymous with large-scale science, physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904–67) represented the new sociocultural power of the American intellectual. Catapulted to fame as director of the Los Alamos atomic weapons laboratory, Oppenheimer occupied a key position in the compact between science and the state that developed out of World War II. By tracing the making—and unmaking—of Oppenheimer’s wartime and postwar scientific identity, Charles Thorpe illustrates the struggles over the role of the scientist in relation to nuclear weapons, the state, and culture. Oppenheimer reveals its subject as an expert for the state with broad cultural and moral authority. But Oppenheimer also played a crucial role in integrating the scientific community and defining the task of the physicist as nuclear weaponeer. The controversy over the hydrogen bomb and Oppenheimer’s public fall from grace in the 1954 loyalty-security hearings revealed fundamental tensions at the heart of the modern technoscientific state, raising questions about the responsibility scientists should take for the technologies of death they produce. A stylish intellectual biography, Oppenheimer maps out changes in the roles of scientists and intellectuals in twentieth-century America, ultimately revealing transformations in Oppenheimer’s persona that coincided with the changing attitudes toward science in society.

Type:Book
Title:Oppenheimer: The Tragic Intellect
ISBN:0226798453
UCL classification:UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Science and Technology Studies

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