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PhilosophyPart of Humanities

New insights into the pioneer of the atom bomb

Published: 8 November 2012
Inside the Centre book cover

Ray Monk, Professor of Philosophy, has written a new biography of one of the first atomic scientists. Inside the Centre: The Life of J Robert Oppenheimer is published this week by Jonathan Cape.

Oppenheimer led research at the remote Los Alamos base in New Mexico that resulted in the development of the first atom bomb in the 1940s. The biography is the fruit of 11 years work for Ray including much time in the scientist’s archives in Washington DC.

“I find the story of his life fascinating,” he explains. “He was a brilliant quantum physicist and earned his place in history through the Manhattan Project. After the first atomic bomb was detonated in a test in 1945, Oppenheimer said it reminded him of the words of the Bhagavad Gita: ‘Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds,’. The scientist was also involved in left wing politics in the 1930s and eventually lost his security clearance after a controversial and acrimonious hearing in 1954.”

Ray is also well-known as a writer on Wittgenstein. His work will be featured in a double page article Life in Writing in The Guardian on Saturday 10 November, and he will be interviewed by BBC TV for the News Channel the following week. His book on Oppenheimer is also expected to be reviewed in many other national newspapers and magazines.

Ray will deliver a lecture on Oppenheimer at Avenue Campus on 21 November, based on his book and will embark on a bookshop tour at the end of the month.

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