13 October, 2017

Robert Oppenheimer

J. Robert Oppenheimer was an American theoretical physicist and professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley. He is known for his role as the scientific director of the Manhattan Project: the World War II effort to develop the first nuclear weapons at the secret Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. For this reason he is remembered as "the father of the atomic bomb". In reference to the Trinity test in New Mexico, where his Los Alamos team first tested the bomb, Oppenheimer famously recalled the Bhagavad Gita: "If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one. Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

After the war Oppenheimer was a chief advisor to the newly created United States Atomic Energy Commission and used that position to lobby for international control of atomic energy and to avert the nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union. After provoking the ire of many politicians with his outspoken political opinions during the Red Scare, he had his security clearance revoked in a much-publicized and politicized hearing in 1954. Though stripped of his direct political influence Oppenheimer continued to lecture, write, and work in physics. A decade later President Lyndon B. Johnson presented him with the Enrico Fermi Award as a gesture of political rehabilitation.

As a scientist Oppenheimer is remembered most for being the chief founder of the American School of Theoretical Physics while at the University of California, Berkeley. At the Institute for Advanced Study he would hold Einstein's old position of Senior Professor of Theoretical Physics. Oppenheimer's notable achievements in physics include the Born-Oppenheimer approximation, work on electron-positron theory, the Oppenheimer-Phillips process, quantum tunneling, relativistic quantum mechanics, quantum field theory, black holes, and cosmic rays.

He died at his home in Princeton, New Jersey in February 1967, at age 62.

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