J. Robert Oppenheimer, a "productive dilettante"
April 13, 2005 8:45 AM Subscribe
He was fond of reading Proust and Dostoevsky. He studied the Bhagavad Gita in Sanskrit, painted landscapes in oil, and flirted with Marxism. His mannerisms -- such as saying "Gee!" when pondering some scientific marvel -- were contagious. And when the US government decided to incinerate hundreds of thousands of fishermen, housewives, cooks, potters, and Zen monks as a decisive blow for peace in 1945, he told the commanding officers on the mission, "Don't let them detonate it too high . . . or the target won't get as much damage." He was J. Robert Oppenheimer, the mild-mannered destroyer of worlds who led the Manhattan Project, portrayed in a new biography called American Prometheus.
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