Pulitzer winner

Tufts historian takes top prize for biography

Martin J. Sherwin, the Walter S. Dickson Professor of English and American History at Tufts University, and biographer Kai Bird have been awarded the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for biography for their book on the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist who led the Manhattan Project, which resulted in the development and use of the atomic bomb in August 1945.

Martin J. Sherwin © MELODY KO

A New York Times review describes American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Knopf, 2005) as “a work of voluminous scholarship and lucid insight, unifying its multifaceted portrait with a keen grasp of Oppenheimer’s essential nature.”

“Oppenheimer was well known for black hole theory,” a region of space that has so much mass concentrated in it that there is no way for a nearby object to escape its gravitational pull, Bird told the Boston Herald. “He, as a subject, was a black hole—extremely enigmatic, complicated.”

Sherwin became interested in Oppenheimer while writing A World Destroyed: Hiroshima and the Origins of the Arms Race (Vintage Books, 1987), which won the Stuart L. Bernath Prize and the American History Book Prize.

Earlier this year, American Prometheus received the National Book Critics Circle Award for the best biography of the year.