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About the book
  • Published: 15 November 2012
  • ISBN: 9781448162253
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 832

Inside The Centre

The Life of J. Robert Oppenheimer

A story of discovery, secrecy, impossible choices and unimaginable destruction: Robert Oppenheimer, his life and the first atomic bomb.

J. Robert Oppenheimer is among the most contentious and important figures of the twentieth century. As head of the Los Alamos Laboratory, he oversaw the successful effort to beat the Nazis to develop the first atomic bomb – a breakthrough which was to have eternal ramifications for mankind, and made Oppenheimer the 'father of the Bomb'.

But his was not a simple story of assimilation, scientific success and world fame. A complicated and fragile personality, the implications of the discoveries at Los Alamos were to weigh heavily upon him. Having formed suspicious connections in the 1930s, in the wake of the Allied victory in World War Two, Oppenheimer’s attempts to resist the escalation of the Cold War arms race would lead many to question his loyalties – and set him on a collision course with Senator Joseph McCarthy and his witch hunters.

  • Pub date: 15 November 2012
  • ISBN: 9781448162253
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 832

About the Author

Ray Monk

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. His previous work includes Bertrand Russell: The Spirit of Solitude.

Also by Ray Monk

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Praise for Inside The Centre

“An extraordinarily rich biography, superbly researched and written with impressive clarity.”

The Times

“You don't need to know your quantum physics to be gripped by Monk's doorstop study of the momentous life of J Robert Oppenheimer… Monk serves his subject well by sparing us neither the worst nor the best in him.”

Ed Caesar, Sunday Times


Boyd Tonkin, Independent



“[A] fine biography... Oppenheimer has already been served well by biographers. However, Monk here takes the scholarship to a new level.”

BBC History Magazine

“Wonderful... Monk retells this great twentieth-century tragedy magnificently”

Ben Shephard, Observer

“An extraordinarily rich biography, superbly researched and written with impressive clarity. It is a considerable achievement”

Graham Farmelo, The Times

“Monk’s book is a tour de force...magisterial biography.”

Lisa Jardine, Financial Times

“Meticulously researched analysis...a triumph of historical investigation.”

Gerard DeGroot, Sunday Telegraph

“Not just a great biography but a powerful work of art.”

John Gray, New Statesman

“His deep research and lucid prose constitute a masterclass in how biography, done well, gets us closer to the mindset of an age than any other kind of inquiry.”

Kathryn Hughes, Guardian

“The inspired philosophical biographer of Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russell now turns his attention to the nuclear physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer and the profound human dilemmas of American science and the atomic bomb. This is an eagerly awaited and important book which will explore new boundaries in the writing of biography itself.”

Richard Holmes

“This fine, painstaking book makes most recent biography seem slight, even irrelevant.”

David Sexton, Evening Standard

“You don’t need to know your mesons or your melons to be gripped by Oppenheimer’s discursive journey to the heart of the American atomic machine.”

Ed Caesar, Sunday Times

“Oppenheimer is fortunate to have been given such an exemplary biographer.”

Gino Segre, New Scientist

“Monk takes up Oppenheimer after having produced two of the greatest philosophical biographies of recent years.”

Steven Shapin, Guardian

“Extraordinarily detailed and searching new biography.”

John Burnside, Scotsman

“Monk gives an illuminating analysis of Oppenheimer... [A] magisterial and moving book.”

John Gray, Literary Review

“Ray Monk must be our finest living biographer of intellectuals: his earlier lives of Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russell brought an exhilarating clarity to two philosophers who are usually treated with a peculiarly academic kind of foggy reverence. Inside The Centre is not for the faint-hearted, but it repays concentration.”

Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

“Provides a rich, new account of the physicist.”

Robin McKie, Observer

“Monk makes great strides towards fully understanding the phenomenon that was J. Robert Oppenheimer.”

Istvan Hargittai, Nature magazine

“Superb…great study.”

Mark Ronan, Standpoint Magazine

“This is to scratch the surface of this mighty book, which feels suspiciously like the best biography I’ve ever read.”

Bryan Appleyard, New Statesman

“Exhaustive study ... generous detail ... biography about as well as it can be done.”

Jon Turney, Times Higher Education

“This biography is exemplary in its precision.”

Will Self, Prospect

“With an astounding amount of detail, Ray Monk masterfully plots Oppenheimer’s life ... an extensive and unrelenting insight that reflects a man of equal intensity and genius.”

Press Association

“Superb biography.”

Jackson Lears, London Review of Books

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