Read 109 East Palace: Robert Oppenheimer and the Secret City of Los Alamos by Jennet Conant Online


In 1943, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the brilliant, charismatic head of the Manhattan Project, recruited scientists to live as virtual prisoners of the U.S. government at Los Alamos, a barren mesa thirty-five miles outside Santa Fe, New Mexico. Thousands of men, women, and children spent the war years sequestered in this top-secret military facility. They lied to friends and faIn 1943, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the brilliant, charismatic head of the Manhattan Project, recruited scientists to live as virtual prisoners of the U.S. government at Los Alamos, a barren mesa thirty-five miles outside Santa Fe, New Mexico. Thousands of men, women, and children spent the war years sequestered in this top-secret military facility. They lied to friends and family about where they were going and what they were doing, and then disappeared into the desert. Through the eyes of a young Santa Fe widow who was one of Oppenheimer's first recruits, we see how, for all his flaws, he developed into an inspiring leader and motivated all those involved in the Los Alamos project to make a supreme effort and achieve the unthinkable....

Title : 109 East Palace: Robert Oppenheimer and the Secret City of Los Alamos
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780743250085
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 448 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

109 East Palace: Robert Oppenheimer and the Secret City of Los Alamos Reviews

  • Mahlon
    2018-12-11 05:08

    109 East Palace by Jennet Conant offers a fresh look at the story of the Manhattan Project, America's secret effort to build the Atom-bomb which eventually ended WWII. The author decided to tell the story through the eyes of Dorthy Mckibbion, who ran the project's office in Santa Fe, and the wives and children of the scientists who worked on "the hill" as the residents quickly took to calling Los Alamos. Conant also discusses how the people of Santa Fe reacted to the changes that WWII brought to their sleepy idyllic slow-paced lives. The women of Los Alamos faced numerous hardships such as inadequate laundry and cooking facilities, and cramped housing. They bore these burdens with grace and humor because "After all, there was a war on" Conant not only provides a window into the day-to day lives of the scientists and their families, she's also written a first rate history of the project, and woven the two stories together into one engaging seamless narrative.My one criticism of the book is that it is badly in need of a proofreader, but the typos don't detract from the overall impact of the story.109 East Palace is essential reading for anyone who wants to learn more about the Manhattan Project or understand it's historical significance, and would be the perfect introduction for those just beginning to explore this fascinating subject.

  • Beth
    2018-11-28 01:50

    What first struck me about this book was that it was so readable. The first chapter paints a beautiful picture of “father of the atomic bomb” J. Robert Oppenheimer’s first meeting with Dorothy McKibben, a laid back Santa Fean who would become “the gatekeeper” to Los Alamos. Through Dorothy’s eyes, Conant shows us the story of Los Alamos, the scientists who came there, and the atomic bomb — and the charming man behind it all, “Oppie.”I am familiar with much of the stories surrounding wartime Los Alamos — and they are all included here. It expounded upon the Bradbury Science Museum’s standard video, “The Town That Never Was,” and included the context and history I had glimpsed in other places: articles from The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Richard Feynman’s book, or the movie Infinity starring Matthew Broderick.As I was reading I couldn’t help but pick out quotes that would have backed up my point-of-view in past history papers (I wrote on different angles of this same general subject many times). (It's a little different to be reading this kind of book for fun, not gleaning for quotes!)Nevertheless, I can’t say I was totally in love with this book the entire time. A few chapters were drier than others — after Conant’s beautiful narrative in the first chapter she stiffens her writing style somewhat. It’s still wonderfully written and very readable, but when the content wasn’t as interesting (I don’t care for government-related details, it seems) it was harder to get through. That said, I could hardly put the book down as it approached a few natural climaxes, particularly the testing of the bomb in the southern New Mexico desert and the dropping of the bombs on Japan.Conant also includes the story of Oppenheimer himself: his sudden elopement with Kitty (a woman who turned out to be cold and brittle, but to whom Oppie was truly devoted), his “good life” before the war as he entertained at his California estate, and a few curious incidents and how that contributed to his stripped security clearance during McCarthy’s witchhunts of the 1950s. For all his charm and brilliance, his personal life turned out to be a wreck.Conant’s descriptions of the other major scientists were wonderful. Her blunt portrayal of Edward Teller (a Hungarian scientists obsessed with the hydrogen bomb) was so incredulous that it was funny. Richard Feynman’s pranks, Niels Bohr’s fatherly influence, and Klaus Fuch’s quiet, deceptive ways were all interesting to read about.109 East Palace was a very readable, comprehensive book regarding Oppenheimer, Los Alamos, and the people who lived there. I really enjoyed it!

  • Natalie
    2018-11-30 23:42

    This is history made human - I really appreciated that Jennet Conant didn't end her storytelling with the Trinity Site Test or at Hiroshima or Nagasaki.The reader learns the shape of the land that would become home to Robert Oppenheimer's group as they raced to build the bomb. We come to know the story of many of the project's personalities, struggles, and achievements. What is exceptional about these stories is the way they weave together and include frank looks at the pre-war and post-war lives of those who one way or another found themselves caught up in the work of the Manhattan project.I'd just finished reading Einstein: His Life and Universe before I read this, it was great preparation before delving into the lives of the physicists who would work in Los Alamos . It helped me to understand better the world people left before they walked through the door at 109 E Palace and the one they would inhabit afterward.

  • Ruby
    2018-12-08 21:50

    Having lived in Santa Fe and visited Los Alamos on a number of occasions, this book was particularly interesting to me. It gave a close up look at the many individuals who developed the Atomic Bomb, particularly Oppenheimer and his public relations aide, Dorothy. There is quite a picture of how these people tolerated (mostly with heavy drinking) the privations of isolation from family, poor living conditions, and crisis of conscience after the bomb. It was interesting to note the difference in the personalities and outlooks of theoretical physicists compared to the pragmatists of the Military who conducted World War II.

  • Jeff Dawson
    2018-11-20 02:46

    What a great read. I can’t say enough about the insight Jennet Conant puts into this work. She has done a masterful job weaving the intricacies of the bomb development, political up-heavel and meshing of over inflated egos into a precise, easy to digest, complex subject matter. We all know Oppenheimer was dubbed, the “Father of the Atomic Bomb,” but how was he able to do it is the real story. We were in a race to beat Germany to the draw. Everyone knew, if Hitler got there first, he’d waste no time nuking Moscow, London, Warsaw or any other target in Europe. General Groves chooses Oppenheimer to lead the charge at Los Alamos. Talk about two diametric individuals, Oppie is the quintessential academian while Groves is hardcore military. War does make strange bedfellows. But the glue that holds this tenuous détente together is Dorothy McKibbins whom Oppie hired. Without her organizational skills and calm demeanor, it’s questionable whether the Manhattan Project would have succeeded. She was the prop master behind the curtain that allowed the performers to shine. You name it and she saw it was handled even it wasn’t in her job title: housing, food, transportation, entertainment, lost luggage, passes, credentials. No one stepped foot into the compound until she vetted him or her. The only time she allowed a stranger onto the base was when a B-29 pilot arrived late for a meeting. She sized him up in a few minutes and decided, he was okay. The pilot? None other than Colonel Paul Tibbets. I’d say she was a good judge of character. No matter what task Oppie asked Dorothy to perform, she never balked. She, like many women were mesmerized by this soft spoken giant in the world of Physics. Whether he knew it or not, he had quite an effect on the female persuasion, yet stay true to his wife Kitty.Without going into too much detail, she loved this man for his energy, kindness, compassion and wit. Oppie’s drawback was his intelligence and superior attitude. Many of his colleagues embraced it while others, who felt his harsh wit, held high resentment, including the military. After the war, we are aware of the McCarthy hearings and how they were designed to weed out any and all people who were remotely connected to the Communist Party. Many of the scientists who worked on the bomb, for whatever reasons had joined the party, but were not active. It was the thing to do. The identification of Fuchs and the Rosenbergs as Russian spies added salt to the wound. Oppenheimer would be grilled at congressional hearings for not releasing the name of a would-be informant. His naivety of political workings would be his temporary downfall in the public eye. No textbook or theorem could prepare him for the inner workings of Washington.This is an excellent read for anyone interested in the inner workings of Los Alamos and the individuals who launched the world into the atomic age. Five Stars!

  • Jared
    2018-11-30 02:50

    This fascinating book by the granddaughter of James B. Conant, who administrated the Manhattan Project, tells the "human story" of the creation of Los Alamos National Laboratory and the development of the nuclear bomb near the end of World War II. Though the story is framed as an account of Dorothy McKibbin, the administrator who ran the "front office" of the secret wartime lab at the Santa Fe address that serves as the book's title, it is clearly an homage to J. Robert Oppenheimer and his leadership of the wartime effort.Conant creates wonderfully vibrant characters out of what were perhaps the oddest assortment of geniuses ever assembled. It would have been very easy for the book to become little more than a side show of mad scientists, but Conant's passion for the story keeps the inevitable quirkiness authentic and, well, lovable. Genius scientists are rarely known for their "people skills" (Oppenheimer being a grand exception), but Conant is exceptionally sympathetic in her portrayal of these often difficult personalities. The one glaring exception is her portrayal of Edward Teller, who she clearly disdains. This is not a book about the is a book about the community that created the A-bomb under some of the most unusual and strenuous circumstances humans could endure.I found particularly gratifying her discussion of the immediate aftermath of Los Alamos' success, describing fully the way the various key scientists reacted to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Her portrayal of the moral ambiguity of that moment is a great moment to consider the ever more tangled web of technological advancement, militaristic foreign policy, and political expediency. In her telling, Oppenheimer's exceptionalism is rooted in his early and keen perception of the moral dilemma created by atomic energy, summarized by his famous quote after the successful test of the first atomic bomb: "I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." Conant's carrying of the story into the McCarthy era, the revocation of Oppenheimer's security clearance and consultancy at the Atomic Energy Commission feels, to be honest, as if it goes a bit "beyond" where the story could have (perhaps should have) ended. And it is in that final section that her "crusading" for Oppenheimer's reputation as a great scientist and a great American--as well as her most damning remarks about Edward Teller's lack of character--becomes most strident. It's as if she wishes to provide the defense that her grandfather was unable to effectively mount at the height of the "Red Scare" of the 1950s. I've always been fascinated by biographies of "great minds," so this book was fascinating in its incisive explorations of a COMMUNITY of such minds and how they interacted and reacted to each other. Conant does a tremendous job of drawing the reader into that story and making the reader care more about what happened to the people than about what happened to the project. It was a book long in the finishing, but a book that was worthy of the time.

  • Susan
    2018-11-23 03:42

    About 18 months ago, we visited Los Alamos, New Mexico, as part of our "out West" trip. It's the city located high on a mesa in the middle of the desert, formed solely to work on creating the bomb that ended WWII in the 1940s. I was totally fascinated by the place, and this is the 2nd or 3rd book on the topic I've read since."109 East Palace" is so named because that's the address of the office in Santa Fe where all the folks hired to work at Los Alamos went when they first arrived. Inside the unassuming office (it's just off Santa Fe's famous plaza, if you've ever visited), a friendly woman named Dorothy McKibbin greeted them and helped them feel at home -- well, as "at home" as one could feel when learning one would be living in a secret community. Residents weren't allowed to tell relatives where they actually lived (Box 1663 Santa Fe was the address for the thousands who lived there), or what they were working on, etc. Even many of the wives didn't know what the husbands were doing. The community was surrounded by barbed wire and no one could get in without a security pass. This kind of freaked out many of the German physicists who worked there, since they had recently come over from Nazi Germany.It's also the story of Robert Oppenheimer, the director of the project. He was a quirky, odd, yet brilliant guy who inspired affection and loyalty in most all the residents. I was so interested in reading all the details of the various relationships that developed in the community -- the excitement of the Trinity Test (when the bomb was tested prior to its being used in Japan - just afterwards, Oppenheimer quoted from Hindu scriptures: "I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds") -- the shock and disbelief of the physicists when they realized that all their frantic work had actually produced such a powerful weapon ("They're going to take this thing and fry hundreds of Japanese" one worker said in despair) -- sadness over Oppenheimer's wife, who was a former Communist and seemed pretty nuts (I kept wishing he and Dorothy McKibbin, who was widowed, could have gotten together) -- sadness over Oppenheimer's actually losing his security clearance 10 years later in the McCarthy hearings.Yes, I'm rambling, but there is so much to learn in this book. Very interesting, and I think you'll enjoy this glimpse into part of our country's past if you read it. I would have given it 5 stars, but the last chapter or so contained some liberal bias (I felt) by the author.

  • Benj FitzPatrick
    2018-11-16 02:51

    As the first order of business I'd like to give this novel 4.5 stars. With that finished we can move on to the more interesting bits. For having grown up in Los Alamos and working at the national lab for 5 summers I know shockingly little about the town's war years. In fact, this was my first foray into reading a book detailing the Manhattan Project. I will try to keep the nostalgic influence for my childhood home to a minimum. My initial realization during the first hundred pages was how well Conant described the balance between the work all of the scientists did and the strain they felt as people (mostly from their horrific living conditions). Similarly, Conant captured the tension in their lives due to the secretive nature of their work, which meant husbands and wifes could not discuss anything freely. Another facet of the scientists' humanity that was fascinating stemmed from the tension between the military and Oppenheimer, with my favorite scene being when Oppenheimer wore an indian headdress after Groves told him his normal hat was too conspicuous. One strange point to me was how many of the scientists were theoreticians. This made me wonder about the untold stories of the scientists who truly designed and built the bombs. In short, Conant's descriptions covered both the scientific and human aspects of these extraordinary people, and, as a scientist, I have often seen how hard it is to convey both adequately.

  • Kristal Cooper
    2018-12-08 03:52

    This is the story of the first atomic bomb, told biographically by piecing together memoirs of many key players from 1940s Los Alamos. The idea was surely inspired by the fact that the author’s grandfather was an administrator for the Manhattan Project, so he knew everyone and eventually shared some of the stories with his family.The problem is that physicists and professors just aren’t very interesting people. The first 100 pages, as the "characters" are all introduced, was some of the most dreadfully boring reading I’ve ever subjected myself to. Every time I wanted to quit though, I’d flip to the middle of the book and read a paragraph that was more like what I was hoping for. Just by virtue of having to live secret lives in a remote location for years, there must have been some good stories… right? The answer is: not really. Every once in a while there was a tidbit that I enjoyed but – for the most part – the people just acted predictably stir-crazy. On the plus side, I will say that I was completely riveted by the couple of chapters about the Trinity test and the subsequent bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It made me wish I could go on one of those rare tours of the Trinity site or – better yet – to the Peace Memorial in Japan. I’ll probably have to settle for a trip to Los Alamos, but that’s okay because it will be much easier to appreciate now that I have the scene set in my head.

  • Vicky
    2018-11-13 22:51

    This was a bargain table book. What a find! It was written by the granddaughter of James B. Conant, administrator of the Manhattan Project.Although I was too young to remember this time in our history, I have always had an interest in WWII. I really enjoyed this book...the story of Los Alamos, NM and the secret project to create an atomic weapon. The 'behind the scene' relationships between scientist, military personnel, civilians, and government lend a personal aspect to the story. The familial and public repercussions for many of the 'actors' in this real life drama were harsh. It made me appreciate, even more, the dedication, perserverence, bravery, loyalty and intellect of those people, great and small, who accomplished this immense task.I hope you enjoy learning about this part of our history as much as I did.

  • Linconter
    2018-11-20 02:58

    Most interesting book. A tad hard to get into at the outset, but by the middle of the book you felt like you were living on that high plateau with the wind constantly blowing! I think part of the hesitation was my fault, because I thought it was going to be a fictional account, so the painstaking research that the author did surprised me. Nora Gallaher wrote Changing Light, about a scientist who "escapes" from Los Alamos after he learns that the bomb won't be used against Germany but instead against Japan. That was also an interesting treatment of the workings of the minds of the scientists as they realized what they were creating. 109 East Palace was a well-documented account and thoroughly worth reading. And the bonus was to learn about the Japanese balloon attacks!

  • Catherine Hurst
    2018-11-21 03:48

    This is a riveting story of the building of the bomb at Los Alamos 1943-1945. Since my Dad had the opportunity to go on the Manhattan Project (and decided against it) and I currently live in New Mexico, I found it personally interesting as well. Great characters brought to life and very thorough research.....I was fascinated by the two "lead characters"--Robert Oppenheimer and Dorothy McKibben. It sounds like Oppenheimer might have been the only guy who could have pulled this off, and I am horrifed by his treatment at the hands of the McCarthy-ites in the 1950s. McKibben was his assistant in Santa Fe and her story is very interesting as well.My only quibble is about a number of spelling and word usage errors--sloppy editing, I guess......

  • Lisa
    2018-11-25 04:01

    Truly fascinating. A great history professor recommended this book and 5 years later I finally got around to finishing it. It's a little dry and long winded in some parts but she does a brilliant job humanizing the players. My grandparent's home is on Palace Ave in Santa Fe, and I love reading about this tiny corner of the world during one my favorite historical periods. I have also been to Trinity Site, and there's this energy that hangs in the air there, It's very electric. I think Oppenheimer was the type of person who could capture moments and him quoting Vishnu from the Bhagavad Gita, "I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds" is very poignant.

  • Meredith
    2018-11-20 01:54

    This is an excellent book on of the Manhattan Project, giving good insight into the obstacles faced by J. Robert Oppenheimer as he shepherded a large group of scientists toward the goal of designing a nuclear weapon. While other books have been written on the science of this effort, this is the best description of the human effort that went into the project - particularly on the problems faced by the scientists and their families while living in isolation in Los Alamos. Oppenheimer was clearly a visionary leader for the project itself, but his personality worked against him in the years following completion of the project. An excellent read.

  • Pamela
    2018-12-01 23:57

    Extensively informative and broad-scoped. Clarity of focus and presentation. Well-documented citations of personal interviews and numerous resource documents. Additionally, considering the topic, it isn't dry or over technical, rather, it flows quite fluid and friendly. The only drawbacks are - too wordy in places regarding sub-topics of lesser importance, duplication of information such as the deplorable housing conditions and baby booms...repeated in numerous chapters. Overall, a very good enlightening read.

  • Carol Catinari
    2018-11-23 04:48

    In light of my new found interest in all things New Mexico, I got this book on cd. So far, very interesting. Just the assembling of the team and the personalities involved is already engaging. On my next trip there, I hope to visit Los Alomos.The "next trip there" has come and gone, and I did visit Los Alamos. The book added to my interest in L.A., and L.A. added to my enjoyment of the book....

  • Susan
    2018-12-04 04:08

    Even though I Read 109 East Palace quite some time ago,certain events are still vivid.I went on to read Tuxedo Park I was so engrossed,shocked that we lived so close to Tuxedo Park and until I read the book was Shocked!Being a WW2 junkie and if you are as well,I highly recommend both books

  • Barbie-Q
    2018-11-19 01:59

    Cool assemblage of stories about working at Los Alamos on the Manhattan Project. Makes me ponder: what if my calling in life was to build the most horrible/destructive weapon imaginable?

  • Christine Nierenz
    2018-11-15 01:10

    Parts of this book were little slow, but I enjoyed reading the history about this project, not knowing much about it before I read it.

  • Lynn
    2018-11-16 05:00

    This is the second book by Jennet Conant I have read and enjoyed it thoroughly. The book centers on Robert Oppenheimer and several of the main people who worked with him or were in support roles. Conant conducted many interviews and used many personal memoirs to show the relationships as well as the very complicated dynamics among everyone. It does delve into the specifics of the atomic bomb research but is centered more on the people, their personalities, how they meshed together and the lives they led under the enormous constraints of Los Alamos. Since Los Alamos was a complete secret the security was beyond tight and everyone was confined to the Los Alamos area and not allowed to talk about anything they were doing. Fake names, no contact with anyone off the 'base' - it is amazing that the strain and stress didn't doom the project. The scientists' emotional roller coaster ride through their highs and lows after successes and failures is well documented - as is their reactions and feelings once the test was completed and after the bomb was dropped. Excellent book.

  • Stephen P
    2018-11-30 23:54

    At first, I didn’t know what to make of this historical account of the Los Alamos project. However, I soon found it to be an interesting and gripping history of the project and the people involved. The author focused on the human dynamics involved, including the moral decisions facing the scientists in creating a weapon of mass destruction on a scale never seen before, versus the desire to bring a speedy end to World War II. In addition, the description of the competing agendas of the military on one hand, who desired secrecy at all costs, and the scientists, who needed to collaborate in order to expedite the development of the science, was an interesting study in human dynamics. Finally, the account of the post-war Red Scare and the sad effects it had on people who simply though outside the box was a reminder of how easy it is for personal liberty to be cast aside in the name of national security.

  • Stephanie
    2018-12-08 02:48

    I was impressed by the world of Los Alamos when I first visited the museum there a decade ago, and this is the kind of book I have been looking for ever since, and was fortunate enough to stumble upon in its eponymous location.It is a great concept, retelling the story of the secret laboratory on the mesa with a special focus on Robert Oppenheimer's office manager, Dorothy McKibbin, who was a smart, highly educated, and poetic soul with, it seems, a huge motherly influence on everyone who worked on the bomb project. I was pleased to see a character like her, rarely lauded in life, getting a little glory next to the big-name scientists we have all heard of. The overall story of the project is well told, a readable presentation of the history and an introduction to many memorable characters.

  • Audrey
    2018-12-11 22:03

    For many Americans, the movie "The Day After" comprises all of our knowledge about the atomic bomb. This book details the selection of a rather unexpected scientist to be Director of the Los Alamos Project, the establishment of the site, and the ongoing work and security involved to keep it secret from the rest of the world. It is also an acknowledgement of the loyalty and determination of Dorothy McKibbin who managed to make the scientists marooned at Los Alamos fell more at home while protecting their secrets. She deserves her own book!

  • John
    2018-11-14 00:55

    An interesting account of the birth and growth of Los Alamos. Not a technical history of the development of the bomb so much as a history of the site and many of its luminaries. It focuses mainly on Oppenheimer and the remarkable Santa Fe resident Dorothy McKibbin gatekeeper and surrogate mother of the site. The latter part of the book deals with Oppie's run-ins with the witch-hunting cold-warriors who managed to destroy him.

  • Paul Monahan
    2018-11-25 05:46

    I'm a huge history reader...and loved the back-stories behind the Manhattan project and its LosAlamos, NM - based scientific community.Not long after reading this, I had a chance to visit 109 East Palace in Sante Fe...which is now a boutique shop...and so it was very cool.

  • Brian Bigelow
    2018-12-07 03:05

    Excellent. Pretty in depth about the creation of the facility.

  • Pito Salas
    2018-12-10 04:56

    Wonderful book about Los Alamos. Got interested in the atomic bomb while in Santa Fe. Trinity, Robert Oppenheimer and all that.

  • Erocchio
    2018-11-12 21:59

    A very detailed account of Los alamos. I couldn't help feel saddened by all the hard work that went into such a horrifying project.

  • J. Michael Bremer
    2018-11-14 02:53

    Well written and informative.Well written and informative.They want me to write 16 more words but there is nothing left to say. So here you go, one two three

    2018-12-05 22:07

    A-Bomb the way it wasInteresting, lot of unknown facts, information on how they lived there. Went down hill for me after the bomb was used.