Robert Oppenheimer and the History of the Atomic BombJune 27, 2021
The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945 worried many people, but three of them stood out: Albert Einstein, who unintentionally revealed the theory of the bomb, dropped the first bomb on Hiroshima with the plane named after his mother Enola Gay. Paul Tibbets and J. Robert Oppenheimer, who helped develop the bombs.
Oppenheimer, who spent his early teenage years with melancholy, loneliness, Hinduism and literature, was troubled by his failure in mathematics while he was interested in chemistry at the same time. Years later, when he was remembered as a master of theoretical physics, he would remember that period with a smile on his face. Oppenheimer, who had a headache after leaving a poisoned apple on his teacher’s desk while at Cambridge University and survived this incident with the help of his father, thought that he was the perfect fit for the task when he was appointed head of the nuclear weapons development laboratory in Los Alamos, USA in May 1945. But his colleagues were worried.
In Los Alamos, Oppenheimer was often quiet and contemplative, strictly following the “orders” he received from the soldiers above him. On the other hand, US intelligence suspected that Oppenheimer was a Soviet spy and a covert communist, based on the report prepared by field officers about whom it had “moderate” information.
As the European leg of the Second World War was about to end, the US government gave a very clear instruction to correct the deficiencies in Los Alamos in case Germany could develop nuclear weapons. This order was handed over separately to Oppenheimer, who had more command of “work” (the theoretical and practical part of atomic bomb making) than anyone else on campus.
The note appended to the end of the instruction contained a sentence or two about confidence in Oppenheimer. The US government and intelligence were trying to connect him more to the project and to himself. When Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945, eyes were turned to the Pacific leg of the Second World War. By July 1945, a petition began to circulate among scientists and government officials calling for the use of atomic bombs against Japan to end the war. During one of his days at Los Alamos, Oppenheimer refused to sign this petition before him. The calendars showed July 17, 1945; Oppenheimer, who watched the explosion from a trench while the first atomic bomb test was being carried out the day before, remembered the phrase “I have become death” in the Hindu texts he had read.
Oppenheimer, who did not make any statement after the trial that day or after August 6, almost returned to the silence of his early youth on this issue. The atomic bomb, which he made a significant contribution to his invention and was at the top of the list of deadly weapons, was also a result of his enthusiasm for scientific discovery: The dangerous principle of “anything can be done” was gifted to humanity when conditions were forced in Los Alamos to create an infinity!
Oppenheimer was one of the speakers of the conferences organized by the Congress for Cultural Freedom, which was established after the Second World War and funded by the CIA to fight communism. There, he admitted that his actions were worrisome, but talked about the necessity of overcoming his failures in his early youth with scientific progress and the need to act in accordance with the truth of the time, no matter how terrible.
In the last years of his life, his only implicit explanation of 1945 was in the speech he gave at that conference. Oppenheimer lived in “peace” for the rest of his life, satisfying his scientific curiosity, while not disgracing the trusting US government. a close relative; He explained that Oppenheimer felt pangs of conscience because he thought he was late in preventing the use of the atomic bomb in Japan. Oppenheimer also told the same person that he got out of this trouble by remembering that he did not sign the July 17 petition.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook