Roosevelt House is proud to present a discussion of the monumental, Pulitzer Prize-winning biography American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and the late Martin J. Sherwin. The author will be in conversation with Hunter College Professor of Political Science Cynthia Roberts about the extraordinary renaissance of interest in the book following the enormous popular success of—and critical acclaim for—the film adapted from it. With the book’s improbable return to bestseller lists almost 20 years after its publication, this discussion will consider the enduring significance of this foundational volume, first published in 2006, as well as the state—and evolution—of American nuclear policy.
The definitive biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer, American Prometheus delivered an exhaustive account of the life and career of one of the most iconic figures of the 20th century. A brilliant physicist who led the effort to build the atomic bomb for his country in a time of war, Oppenheimer later found himself confronted by the moral consequences of scientific progress. In this magisterial, acclaimed biography 25 years in the making, Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin captured Oppenheimer’s life and times.
“A riveting account of one of history’s most essential and paradoxical figures.”
— Christopher Nolan, director of Oppenheimer
Kai Bird is a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, biographer, and journalist. He is the author most recently of The Outlier: The Unfinished Presidency of Jimmy Carter as well as The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames; The Color of Truth: McGeorge Bundy and William Bundy: Brothers in Arms; The Chairman: John J. McCloy and the Making of the American Establishment; and the memoir Crossing Mandelbaum Gate: Coming of Age Between the Arabs and Israelis, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 2017, he was appointed executive director and distinguished lecturer of the CUNY Graduate Center’s Leon Levy Center for Biography. His current project is a biography of Roy Cohn.
Cynthia Roberts is Professor of Political Science at Hunter College and a senior research scholar at Columbia University’s Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies. In 2019, she served at the Department of Defense as a policy adviser for the J-5 division of the the Joint Staff, focusing on nuclear strategy, plans, and policy. Previously, she was Director of Hunter’s Russian Area Studies Graduate Program. She also served on the executive committee on science, arms control, and national security of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and as a consultant on international security. She is the author of The BRICS and Collective Financial Statecraft (with L. Armijo and S. Katada) and Russia and the European Union: The Sources and Limits of ‘Special Relationships.’