This biographical study focuses on Oppenheimer’s cultural and intellectual rise as a theoretical physicist as well as his role within the trajectory of the nation’s rise to scientific leadership and the post-war forces that confronted American science. This biography is nearly unique in that it includes discussions for general audiences of Oppenheimer’s work and contributions to theoretical physics, including his famous prediction of black holes sixty years before their confirmed discovery.
“Now David Cassidy brings us the best account of Oppenheimer’s life in science with J. Robert Oppenheimer and the American Century.” — T. Powers, New York Review of Books
“Cassidy covers this ground admirably in his thoughtful biography of Oppenheimer.” —Scientific American
“Cassidy’s book...is probably the best single study of Oppenheimer to date.” — B. Bernstein, Physics World
“Cassidy’s biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer is a concise, well-written book about the life of the famous 20th century scientist... A worthwhile read for anyone with an interest in the coming of age of American physics and how the weaknesses and strengths of one of its leaders shaped the relationship between science and the government for decades to come.” — Physics and Society
“This biography is a detailed and beautifully written work. Cassidy expands beyond the traditional scope of a biography and expertly explores the surrounding environment that shaped Oppenheimer’s life.” — Atomic Archive
“This excellent biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer places the eminent physicist in the context of twentieth century America... Cassidy... provides excellent insights into the life and times of this complex man. Unlike many other biographers of Oppenheimer, Cassidy assesses his role as a twentieth century theoretical physicist.” — Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues
“A superbly researched biography... There is no doubt that Cassidy gives us a valuable perspective on Oppenheimer’s life. The author is shy neither of editorializing nor of making judgments about the personalities who appear in the story... These comments are almost unfailingly fair and justified by the evidence.” — Times Higher Education
“Cassidy... has written a book that neither praises Oppenheimer nor buries his reputation but, rather, puts some tarnish upon the icon.” — G. Herken, Science
Born in Richmond, Virginia, David C. Cassidy grew up in Detroit and New Jersey. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics at Rutgers University and his doctorate in a joint Purdue University (physics) and University of Wisconsin-Madison (history of science) program. After a year as a post-doctoral fellow in history of science at UC-Berkeley, he lived for six years in Germany, first as a Humboldt Fellow in history of science at the University of Stuttgart, then as an assistant professor in the chair for history of science at the University of Regensburg.
Cassidy returned to the US as associate editor of The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, then located in Princeton and Boston. He joined the faculty of Hofstra University in 1990. In 1992 he published the award-winning biography Uncertainty: The Life and Science of Werner Heisenberg. He published J. Robert Oppenheimer and the American Century in 2004. Cassidy is also the author of Einstein and Our World,Understanding Physics, and A Short History of Physics in the American Century. Recently he began writing science history plays, the first of which premiered in New York in 2014; it will be published in his new book Farm Hall and the German Atomic Project of WWII: A Dramatic History.
Cassidy is the recipient of the Pfizer Award of the History of Science Society, the Science Writing Award of the American Institute of Physics, the Abraham Pais Prize of the American Physical Society, and an honorary doctorate of science awarded by Purdue University.
"Cassidy does not so much exculpate Heisenberg as explain him, with a transparency that makes this biography a pleasure to read."Los Angeles Times
"Well crafted and readable . . . [Cassidy] provides a nuanced and compelling account of Heisenberg's life."The Harvard Book Review
In 1992, David C. Cassidy’s groundbreaking biography of Werner Heisenberg, Uncertainty, was published to resounding acclaim from scholars and critics. Michael Frayn, in the Playbill of the Broadway production of Copenhagen, referred to it as one of his main sources and “the standard work in English.” Richard Rhodes (The Making of the Atom Bomb) called it “the definitive biography of a great and tragic physicist,” and the Los Angeles Times praised it as “an important book. Cassidy has sifted the record and brilliantly detailed Heisenberg’s actions.” No book that has appeared since has rivaled Uncertainty, now out of print, for its depth and rich detail of the life, times, and science of this brilliant and controversial figure of twentieth-century physics.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, long-suppressed information has emerged on Heisenberg’s role in the Nazi atomic bomb project. In Beyond Uncertainty, Cassidy interprets this and other previously unknown material within the context of his vast research and tackles the vexing questions of a scientist’s personal responsibility and guilt when serving an abhorrent military regime.
David C. Cassidy is the author of J. Robert Oppenheimer and the American Century, Einstein and Our World, and Uncertainty.