Julius Robert Oppenheimer
April 22, 1904
February 18, 1967
Place of Birth:
New York City, New York
Robert Oppenheimer was the Director of the Los Alamos Laboratory leading to the atomic bomb.
He came from a well-to-do family and attended private schools where he was an excellent student.
Oppenheimer not only excelled in Mathematics and Science, but he also was versatile in learning at least four languages.
He graduated with highest honors from Harvard University with a major in Chemistry.
In 1926, Robert Oppenheimer decided to study theoretical physics after having been introduced to thermodynamics at Harvard.
He went to Europe studying at Georgia Augusta under the direction of the future Nobel Prize winning scientist, Max Born.
Oppenheimer worked with Born and the two made several advances to the quantum theory.
He returned to the United States in 1929 and held position at Berkeley University and the California Institute of Technology.
Robert Oppenheimer was considered an excellent teacher and theoretician.
In the 1930's, he flirted with communistic ideals but never did join the Communist party.
This, however, did cause him to lose some credibility in the minds of some scientists.
By the early 40's, German scientists had discovered how to split the atom which opened the possibility of powerful weapons.
Oppenheimer was invited by President Roosevelt to direct the scientific research of the Manhattan Project.
The Manhattan Project referred to the development of the first atomic bomb by the United States with assistance from Great Britain and Canada.
Oppenheimer had to oversee that the scientists worked effectively towards the common goal.
The result was the manufacture of at least three atomic bombs, two of which were used to end World War II.
Some of the scientists, including Oppenheimer, who worked on the bombs were shocked at the total destruction caused by their use.
After the war, Robert Oppenheimer was appointed to a key post with the Atomic Energy Commission as an advisor on nuclear-related topics.
At first, he opposed the development of the hydrogen bomb, which he thought would be an impractical experiment.
When he later changed his opinion, he was accused of flip-flopping and lost credibility by the government.
In 1953, Oppenheimer lost his security clearance as he was accused of being a communist sympathizer.
Still motivated, he continued teaching, writing, and promoting scientific thought regarding physics and atomic energy.
In 1962, political friends appealed to President Kennedy and later President Johnson who awarded Oppenheimer the Enrico Fermi Award as a gesture of political vindication.
Robert Oppenheimer was respectfully called "the father of the atomic bomb".
For detailed research and more information, check out the following:
A Science Odyssey
Pioneers of Computing
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Last Updated: January 22, 2017
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