Who is Robert Oppenheimer?June 26, 2021
Julius Robert Oppenheimer, full name, was an American physicist who lived from April 22, 1904 to February 18, 1967.
He served as the scientific head of the Manhattan Project, which was initiated to produce nuclear weapons during the Second World War. He is also known as the first architect of the atomic bomb.
He was the first child of a non-religious Jewish family. His father, Julius S. Oppenheimer, was a wealthy textile importer who had immigrated to the United States from Germany, and his mother, Ella Friedman, was a painter. His younger brother, Frank, who was eight years younger, also became a physicist.
He completed his chemistry studies at Harvard University in three years. He also took courses in physics. Meanwhile, he was also interested in art, literature and various languages. After graduating from Harvard University, he went to England because his physics education was better in Europe than in the USA at that time. In his laboratory studies here, he saw that the laboratory environment was not for him and decided to continue his education in theoretical physics. In 1926, he went to the University of Göttingen to work with Max Born. Students with whom he made friends, such as Werner Heisenberg, Pascual Jordan, Wolfgang Pauli, Paul Dirac, Enrico Fermi and Edward Teller, later became famous physicists like him. He earned his doctorate in 1927, when he was only 22 years old. He published many articles in Göttingen, especially on quantum theory. He returned to Harvard University in September 1927 as a theoretical physicist. He began teaching physics at the University of California in 1928.
In the 1930s, he was influenced by communist views. He gave financial support to various left-wing groups with an inheritance of $ 300,000 from his father, who died in 1937. Although he was in regular contact with many members of the communist party, he did not join the party. He married Katherine (“Kitty”) Puening Harrison in November 1940. They had two children in 1941 and 1944.
Oppenheimer was later appointed chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission’s Advisory Committee. He now focused entirely on the dangers of radioactivity caused by nuclear explosions, and in 1949 controversially opposed the development of the hydrogen bomb. Oppenheimer states that the use of this weapon would be a genocide and that no plausible reason could be found for the slaughter of hundreds of millions of people.
After opposing the hydrogen bomb, Oppenheimer comes face-to-face with Edward Teller, the inventor of the hydrogen bomb, who thinks this weapon will be crucial to the spread of communism. Along with Enrico Fermi and some other prominent physicists, they lobby politicians against the development of the hydrogen bomb. However, due to his close relations with the communists between 1930 and 1940, he fell victim to Makkarticism (named after Sen. Joseph McCarthy, the practice of accusing the citizen of being a communist or traitor without proof) in 1953, and although he was found not guilty, he became a victim of military secrets. It is decided to hide from him. Thus, he was removed from the Atomic Energy Commission. Although this decision caused great opposition and 493 scientists working in the Manhattan Project signed the protest, the way for Edward Teller’s hydrogen bomb tests was opened.
In 1959, he was offered and accepted as a physics teacher by the University of Colorado. He later designed the Explatorium Science Museum in San Francisco. In 1963, the crime of leftism was pardoned in the year Lydon B. Johnson was awarded the Enrico Fermi Award. He died of throat cancer in February 1967.
Also please see:
– Oppenheimer and the history of the atomic bomb
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