Kariena's Reviews > American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer

American Prometheus by Kai Bird
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U 50x66
's review
Mar 02, 2009

really liked it
Read in March, 2009

This book reminded me that reading biographies is a great way to learn your history. It's a hard read, especially the incredibly detailed descriptions of Oppenhimer's connections to the Communist party before the war-BORING, but worth the effort. I came away with a more detailed understanding of atomic politics in the 1940s and 50s. Here's one of the many things I learned that made me want to punch someone in the face:
There are documented communications from Japan to the US in the spring and summer of 1945 (ie BEFORE we dropped the bombs). In these communications the Japanese indicate their willingness to surrender under the condition that their Emperor be allowed to remain at least as a figure head; they reasoned this would help keep order in the country after the war. After the US dropped two atomic bombs, negotiations lead to Japan's surrender under essentially the same conditions they had proposed before the bombs. I was always told that Japan was never ever going to surrender and that the US used the bombs as a last resort to end the war. Not that I ever truly believed that, but I didn't realize that Japan had actually offered a surrender several months prior to August 1945.

'Prometheus' is full of those types of revelations, so if you who miss getting pissed off at Bush, this might be the book for you. It follows Oppenheimer's entire live, so if you're only interested in the physics- don't read this book. But if you're in the mood for a real life Greek tragedy (not an exaggeration)that also teaches you some US history, this is the best I can recommend.

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