J. Robert Oppenheimer

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J. Robert Oppenheimer, "the father of the atomic bomb" was the first director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, beginning in 1943.

Julius Robert Oppenheimer (April 22, 1904 – February 18, 1967) was an American physicist of Jewish descent. He was the scientific director of the Manhattan Project. In World War II. The project built the first nuclear weapons. That is why Oppenheimer is called "the father of the atomic bomb".

Early life[change | change source]

Oppenheimer was born in New York City on April 22, 1904. He studied at Harvard University, Christ's College, Cambridge and at University of Göttingen. In 1940, he married Katherine Puening. They had two children.

Career[change | change source]

He taught at the University of California, Berkeley where is works about theoretical physics became important for quantum mechanics and nuclear physics.

Oppenheimer helped create the Born–Oppenheimer approximation for molecular wave functions, work on the theory of electrons and positrons, the Oppenheimer–Phillips process in nuclear fusion, and early work on quantum tunneling. He also helped create the theory of neutron stars and black holes, quantum field theory, and the interactions of cosmic rays.

Oppenheimer with Albert Einstein in c. 1950

In 1942, Oppenheimer was hired to work on the Manhattan Project. In 1943 he became director of the project's Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico. His job was to help create the first nuclear weapons with other scientists and General Leslie Groves. On July 16, 1945, he was present at the first test of the atomic bomb, Trinity. In August 1945, the weapons were used against Japan in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

After the successful testing of the atomic bomb in New Mexico, United States, he said: "We knew the world would not be the same...now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

In 1947, Oppenheimer became the director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Later in his career he supported international control of nuclear power to stop nuclear proliferation and a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union.

Oppenheimer was against making the hydrogen bomb. During the Second Red Scare, Oppenheimer lost his security clearance. In 1954, Lewis Strauss held security hearing that criticized Oppenheimer's political and nuclear ideas and his past connections with the Communist Party USA.[1] So, Oppenheimer lost access to the government's atomic secrets and his career as a nuclear physicist ended.[2]

In December 1963, he was given the Enrico Fermi Award by President Lyndon B. Johnson.[3] In 2022, the federal government gave back Oppenheimer's security clearance.[4]

Death[change | change source]

Oppenheimer died of throat cancer in Princeton, New Jersey on February 18, 1967 at aged 62.[5] His remains were cremated and scattered in the ocean near his beach house in Saint John, U.S. Virgin Islands.[6]

Pop culture[change | change source]

In 2023, Christopher Nolan directed a movie based on Oppenheimer's life with Irish actor Cillian Murphy playing Oppenheimer.

References[change | change source]

  1. Stern 1969, pp. 412–413
  2. Flynn, Daniel J. (December 20, 2022). "The Undeserved Rehabilitation of J. Robert Oppenheimer". The American Spectator. Archived from the original on August 19, 2023. Retrieved August 19, 2023.
  3. Finney, John W. (December 2, 1963). "Oppenheimer Gets Praise of Johnson with Fermi Prize". The New York Times. pp. 1, 22. Archived from the original on August 18, 2023. Retrieved August 19, 2023.
  4. Broad, William J. (December 16, 2022). "J. Robert Oppenheimer Cleared of 'Black Mark' After 68 Years". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 7, 2023. Retrieved December 17, 2022.
  5. "J. Robert Oppenheimer, Atom Bomb Pioneer, Dies". The New York Times. February 19, 1967. pp. 1, 66. Archived from the original on September 21, 2023. Retrieved August 19, 2023 – via TimesMachine.
  6. Bird & Sherwin 2005, p. 588

Other websites[change | change source]