J. Robert Oppenheimer, a renowned physicist, is at the heart of Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated film, “Oppenheimer.” The movie delves into Oppenheimer’s life as he led the development of the world’s first nuclear weapon during World War II, earning him the title of the father of the atomic bomb. However, the film also explores the aftermath of a closed-door investigation in the 1950s, which questioned his communist affiliations and significantly impacted his life.
Who Was Oppenheimer?
Born Julius Robert Oppenheimer on April 4, 1904, in New York City, he pursued his passion for physics and completed his Ph.D. at the University of Göttingen in 1927. He later became a prominent figure in academia, teaching at both the California Institute of Technology and the University of California at Berkeley.
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World War II and the Manhattan Project:
Oppenheimer’s involvement in the development of the atomic bomb began with World War II. In 1942, he was appointed as the director of the Manhattan Project, tasked with overseeing the construction of a secret laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico. There, he collaborated with fellow scientists, including his younger brother Frank, and successfully tested the first nuclear explosion, code-named Trinity, in July 1945.
Life After the War:
After the war, Oppenheimer’s career continued to flourish. He became the chairman of the General Advisory Committee of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), replacing the Manhattan Project. Additionally, he served as the director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, from 1947 to 1966. During this period, he opposed the development of the hydrogen bomb, leading to controversy during the Cold War.
Security Investigation and Fallout:
In 1954, Oppenheimer faced a closed-door security investigation that accused him of communist sympathies. The investigation resulted in the revocation of his security clearance and the loss of his position at the AEC. This event profoundly affected Oppenheimer, leading to significant changes in his demeanor and spirit, as recalled by physicist Hans Bethe, who worked with him at Los Alamos.
How Oppenheimer Died?
Despite his accomplishments, Oppenheimer’s life took a tragic turn. A chain smoker, he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1965. After undergoing chemotherapy, he fell into a coma on February 15, 1967, and passed away three days later at his Princeton, New Jersey home, at the age of 62.