J. Robert Oppenheimer

J. Robert Oppenheimer: J. Robert Oppenheimer was an American theoretical physicist who was born Julius Robert Oppenheimer (/ˈɒpənhaɪmər/ OP-ən-hy-mər; April 22, 1904 – February 18, 1967). He is frequently referred to be the “father of the atomic bomb” and served as head of the Los Alamos Laboratory during the Manhattan Project during World War II.Oppenheimer was born in New York City and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Harvard University in 1925. He then studied under Max Born at the University of Göttingen in Germany, where he received his PhD in physics in 1927. Following studies at several universities, he joined the University of California, Berkeley’s physics department, where he was promoted to full professor in 1936.

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 are just a few of the notable accomplishments in quantum mechanics and nuclear physics that he made significant contributions to. Contributions to quantum field theory, the theory of neutron stars and black holes, and cosmic ray interactions were also made by him and his students.

J. Robert Oppenheimer

J. Robert Oppenheimer was an American theoretical physicist and science administrator who was born in New York, New York, on April 22, 1904, and passed away in Princeton, New Jersey, on February 18, 1967. He is best known for his roles as director of the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study (1947–1966) and director of Los Alamos Laboratory (1943–45), where he oversaw the development of the atomic bomb. His security clearance and his position as an advisor to the highest levels of the U.S. government were taken away from him following accusations of treason, which prompted a government hearing. Because of the case’s implications for moral and political questions regarding the place of scientists in government, it became a major story in the scientific community.

J. Robert Oppenheimer Details

Julius Robert Oppenheimer

April 22, 1904

New York City, New York, U.S.
Died February 18, 1967 (aged 62)

Princeton, New Jersey, U.S.
  • Harvard University (AB)
  • Christ’s College, Cambridge
  • University of Göttingen (PhD)
Known for
  • Atomic bomb
  • Oppenheimer–Snyder model
  • Tolman–Oppenheimer–Volkoff equation
  • Tolman–Oppenheimer–Volkoff limit
  • Oppenheimer–Phillips process
  • Born–Oppenheimer approximation
Katherine “Kitty” Puening

(m. 1940)​

Children 2
Relatives Frank Oppenheimer (brother)
  • Medal for Merit (1946)
  • Enrico Fermi Award (1963)
Scientific career
Fields Theoretical physics
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Los Alamos Laboratory
  • Institute for Advanced Study
Thesis Zur Quantentheorie kontinuierlicher Spektren (1927)
Doctoral advisor Max Born
Doctoral students
See list

Early life

Born in a non-observant Jewish family on April 22, 1904, in New York City, Oppenheimer was the son of Julius Seligmann Oppenheimer, a prosperous textile importer, and Ella (née Friedman), a painter. Frank, Robert’s younger brother, also pursued a career in physics. Their father arrived in the United States in 1888 as a teenager, lacking any formal education, money, or even English language skills. He was born in Hanau, back when it was still a part of the Hesse-Nassau province of the Kingdom of Prussia. After being employed by a textile company, he rose to executive status there in less than ten years and eventually became well-off. The family relocated to an apartment in 1912, in a neighborhood in Manhattan noted for opulent houses, on Riverside Drive close to West 88th Street.

Alcuin Preparatory School was Oppenheimer’s first educational institution. In 1911, he enrolled in the Ethical Culture Society School, established by Felix Adler with the aim of advancing education grounded in the Ethical Culture movement, which had as its slogan “Deed before Creed”. Serving on the Society’s board of trustees, Oppenheimer’s father was a longtime member of the organization. As a flexible learner, Oppenheimer had a keen interest in minerals as well as English and French literature.

Early career

In September 1927, Oppenheimer received a scholarship from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) through the United States National Research Council. A compromise was found, with him receiving half of his fellowship for the 1927–28 academic year from Harvard in 1927 and Caltech in 1928, as Bridgman also desired him to be at Harvard. He became close to Linus Pauling at Caltech, and the two of them planned to launch a collaborative assault on the nature of the chemical bond—a subject in which Pauling was a pioneer—with Oppenheimer providing the math and Pauling interpreting the findings. After Oppenheimer asked Pauling’s wife, Ava Helen Pauling, to accompany him on a tryst in Mexico, their cooperation and friendship came to an end. Later, Pauling received an invitation from Oppenheimer to lead the Chemistry Division.

Even though he had no experience speaking the language, Oppenheimer made an impression on Paul Ehrenfest at the University of Leiden, the Netherlands, in the fall of 1928 when he gave lectures in Dutch. The nickname Opje was bestowed upon him there,[36] which his students then anglicized to become “Oppie”.From Leiden, he proceeded to Zurich, where he worked with Wolfgang Pauli on quantum physics and the continuous spectrum at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH). Like and respecting Pauli, Oppenheimer might have taken a cue from his analytical problem-solving style and personal manner.

Private and political life

After his mother passed away in 1931, Oppenheimer grew closer to his father, who was still residing in New York but was now frequently visiting California. Upon his father’s death in 1937, Oppenheimer and his brother Frank received $392,602 (about $8.3 million in 2023) to share. Oppenheimer promptly prepared a will directing his assets to the University of California for the purpose of funding graduate scholarships. In the 1920s, Oppenheimer did not keep up with global events. He stated that he didn’t read popular magazines or newspapers and that he didn’t know about the 1929 Wall Street crisis until six months after it happened, while he was out for a stroll with Ernest Lawrence. He used to say that he didn’t vote till the.

Election for president. He started to worry more and more about politics and world affairs in 1934. He donated three percent of his 1934 income, or about $100 (about $2,300 in 2023), to German physicists who were escaping Nazi Germany for two years. He went to a longshoremen’s demonstration with a few of his students, including Melba Phillips and Serber, during the 1934 West Coast Waterfront Strike. Oppenheimer organized fundraisers for the Spanish Republican movement in 1936, following the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Joining the American Committee for Democracy and Intellectual Freedom in 1939, he helped fight against Nazi Germany’s persecution of Jewish scientists. The committee was eventually called a communist front, just like the majority of liberal organizations of the time.

Manhattan Project

Two months prior to the United States’ entry into World War II, on October 9, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his approval for an atomic bomb development program. On October 21, Ernest Lawrence included Oppenheimer in the Manhattan Project. Arthur Compton had appointed Oppenheimer to take over the Metallurgical Laboratory’s particular bomb-design research for the project. Oppenheimer had been a Harvard lecturer when National Defense Research Committee Chairman James B. Conant requested him to take over work on fast neutron calculations on May 18, 1942. Oppenheimer plunged himself into the assignment with all of his might. The title “Coordinator of Rapid Rupture” was bestowed upon him; technically speaking, “rapid rupture” refers to the spread of a swift neutron chain reaction within an atomic structure.

Postwar activities

Following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the public became aware of the Manhattan Project, and Oppenheimer—who was instantly well-known as the “father of the atomic bomb”—became a national spokesperson for science and a symbol of a new kind of technocratic power. He was featured on the covers of Time and Life.As countries grasped the strategic and political potential that atomic bombs gave, nuclear physics grew in strength. Like many scientists of his period, Oppenheimer believed that a transnational body like the recently established United Nations, which could launch an initiative to halt a nuclear arms race, was the only source of security against atomic bombs.

Final years

Oppenheimer began residing on the island of Saint John in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1954, spending several months there each year. He erected a modest house on the beach after buying a 2-acre (0.81 hectare) plot of property on Gibney Beach in 1957. With his wife Kitty and daughter Toni, he went sailing for a long period. After his security clearance was revoked, Oppenheimer gave his first public speech on “Prospects in the Arts and Sciences” for the Columbia University Bicentennial radio program Man’s Right to Knowledge. In this speech, he discussed his philosophy and views on the place of science in the contemporary global community. Two years before the security, he had been chosen for the last installment of the lecture series.


Oppenheimer was diagnosed with throat cancer in late 1965, despite being a chain smoker (of Chesterfields). He had chemotherapy and radiation therapy in the latter part of 1966, but the results were ambiguous. His age was sixty-two when he passed away on February 18, 1967, while sleeping at his Princeton home. A week later, on the Princeton University campus, a memorial service was held at Alexander Hall. A large group of his friends from the military, science, and politics, including Groves, Kennan, Lilienthal, Rabi, Smyth, and Wigner, attended the service in numbers of 600. In attendance were the novelist John O’Hara, the New York City Ballet’s director George Balanchine, historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., and his brother Frank and his family. Quick eulogies were delivered by Bethe, Kennan, and Smyth. The Oppenheimer


When Oppenheimer lost his political power in 1954, he came to represent the moral conundrums that arise from science in the nuclear era as well as the foolishness of scientists who thought they could dictate how their knowledge was used. The hearings demonstrated the sharp division within the nuclear weapons community and were driven by political and personal animosities.One faction regarded the Soviet Union to be a deadly opponent and felt that the best way to counter that threat was to arm oneself with the most potent weapons that could deliver the greatest amount of vengeance. In contrast, the other group supported a more accommodating approach to the H-bomb, believing that its development would not enhance Western security and that its use against sizable civilian populations would constitute genocide.

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