J. Robert Oppenheimer biography
Born in New York City in 1904, physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer served as director of the Los Alamos Laboratory during the development of the atomic bomb. After the 1939 invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany, Oppenheimer was selected to administer a laboratory to carry out the Manhattan Project, the program that developed the first nuclear weapon during World War II. After resigning from his post in 1945, he became the chairman of the General Advisory Committee of the Atomic Energy Commission, which later opposed the development of the hydrogen bomb. This opposition spurred accusations that Oppenheimer was a Communist, and he was subsequently suspended from secret nuclear research. In 1963, he was reinstated and awarded the Enrico Fermi Award by President Lyndon B. Johnson. He died in New York City in 1967.
Early Life and Education
J. Robert Oppenheimer was born on April 22, 1904, in New York City, to German Jewish immigrants. After graduating from Harvard University, Oppenheimer sailed to England and enrolled at the University of Cambridge, and began his atomic research in 1925. A year later, he teamed with Max Born to develop the "Born-Oppenheimer method," an important contribution to quantum molecular theory.
The Manhattan Project
Oppenheimer became politically active in the 1930s, and agreed with Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard that the Nazis could develop a nuclear weapon. Following the 1939 invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany, Oppenheimer was selected to administer a laboratory to carry out the Manhattan Project, a U.S. Army mission to harness nuclear energy for military purposes. He led the scientific end of the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico, in 1942.
The Manhattan Project culminated in August 1945, when the military successfully detonated the first nuclear device over Hiroshima, Japan. After seeing the bomb's devastation, Oppenheimer argued against its further development, and resigned from his post that same year.
Life After WWII
Oppenheimer went on to become chairman of the General Advisory Committee of the Atomic Energy Commission, which, in October 1949, opposed the development of the hydrogen bomb. This shocking opposition led to accusations that Oppenheimer was a Communist supporter. Thusly, in 1953, he was suspended from secret nuclear research, stripped of his security clearance by the Atomic Energy Commission. In 1963, he was reinstated and awarded the Enrico Fermi Award by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
J. Robert Oppenheimer continued to support international control of atomic energy in his later years. He died of throat cancer on February 18, 1967, in New York City. Today, he is often called the "father of the atomic bomb."