The Elusive Jewishness of J Robert Oppenheimer
“Father of the atom bomb” J. Robert Oppenheimer is among the most contentious figures of the 20th century. Brought up in New York of German Jewish ancestry, he went on to oversee the successful effort to beat the Nazis in developing the first atomic bomb, a breakthrough which was to have eternal ramifications for humankind.
But his was not a simple story of assimilation, scientific success and world fame. The implications of the discoveries at Los Alamos were to weigh heavily upon him. His attempts to resist the escalation of the Cold War arms race were to set him on a collision course with Senator Joseph McCarthy and his witch-hunters.
Renowned biographer and philosopher Ray Monk comes to Jewish Book Week to tell Oppenheimer’s story and to explore his complicated and ambivalent relationship with his Jewish background.
Ray Monk is the author of Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius for which he won the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the Duff Cooper Award, and Bertrand Russell: The Spirit of Solitude. He is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton.