"O" for Oppenheimer मुद्रण ई-मेल
Oppenheimer"If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendour of the mighty one." and "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." - In reference to the Trinity test in New Mexico, where Oppenheimer’s Los Alamos team first tested the Atom bomb, Oppenheimer famously recalled the Bhagavad Gita.

 J. Robert Oppenheimer was born in New York City on April 22, 1904. His father was a German immigrant who had made his fortune importing textiles, and his mother was an American-born painter who had studied in Paris. Robert and his brother, Frank, were raised in a comfortable, upper-middle class fashion, and both attended the Ethical Culture School from grammar school through high school. He not only studied math and the sciences, but also Greek, Latin, French, and German, and graduated in 1921. He had a feel for languages and often learned one quickly just to read something in its original language. He learned Dutch in six weeks in order to give a technical talk in the Netherlands. He also maintained an interest in classics and eastern philosophy throughout his life. Oppenheimer attended Harvard University for his undergraduate studies. Besides excelling in physics and chemistry, he continued to study languages, published poetry, and developed an interest in Oriental philosophy.

 He was always an intense person, tall, thin, contemplative, and probing. After the oral exam for his PhD, the professor administering it is reported to have said, "Phew, I'm glad that's over. He was on the point of questioning me." He obtained his PhD in Germany after graduating from Harvard in 1925 and studying at Cambridge University under Ernest Rutherford. In 1929 he returned to the United States and positions at Berkeley and Cal Tech. He was an extraordinary teacher and an excellent theoretician. His analyses predicted many later finds, such as the neutron, positron, meson, and neutron stars.

 Absorbed in his studies and the theoretical world of physics, he was often somewhat distracted from the "real world." But the rise of fascism in the 1930s caught his attention, and he took a strong stand against it. By 1939, Niels Bohr brought news to the U.S. that Germans had split the atom. The implication that the Nazis could develop extremely powerful weapons prompted President Roosevelt to establish the Manhattan Project in 1941. In June 1942, Robert Oppenheimer was appointed its director. Preliminary research was being done at Columbia University, the University of Chicago, and in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, but Oppenheimer set up a new research station at Los Alamos, New Mexico. There he brought the best minds in physics to work on the problem of creating an atomic bomb. In the end he was managing more than three thousand people, as well as tackling theoretical and mechanical problems that arose.

The project was successful and the world's first explosion of a nuclear bomb took place in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945, after the surrender of Germany. The blast was comparable to 20,000 tons of dynamite. Oppenheimer said, "We knew the world would not be the same." Within a month, two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were targeted by atomic bombs, and Japan surrendered on August 10, 1945.

Oppenheimer efforts earned him the Presidential Medal of Merit in 1946. He was named director of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University in 1947. He was also chairman of the General Advisory Committee of the Atomic Energy Commission, or AEC, from 1947 to 1952. He opposed the development of even more powerful bombs, and after President Truman did approve the hydrogen bomb, Oppenheimer found the political atmosphere had turned against him. In 1953, his security clearance was revoked and his contract with the Atomic Energy Commission was cancelled. The scientific community rallied to his support and he became a symbol of a scientist trying to resolve moral problems arising out of scientific discoveries. His final years were focused on the relationship between science and society. The loss of security clearance ended Oppenheimer's influence on science policy. He held the academic post of director of the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton, and in the last years of his life, he thought and wrote much about the problems of intellectual ethics and morality. He died of throat cancer in 1967.

Comments (0)
Only registered users can write comments!

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
 Type in