Father of the Atomic Bomb: Oppenheimer

Julius Robert Oppenheimer, one of the names we have been hearing frequently in the recent days, is now even more widely known, thanks to the movie Oppenheimer. Telling about the life and career of Oppenheimer, this movie has made a splash.





So it's no wonder that everybody wants to know who Oppenheimer is, who is famous for his studies in quantum mechanics and atomic physics, and important discoveries in nuclear physics and cosmology.





Oppenheimer is not only a movie character but a scientist who had incredibly important efforts in the field of science for humanity. While answering the question about who Oppenheimer is, we will also touch on his life, his relationship with Einstein and his studies on the atomic bomb in this article.




Biography and Life of Oppenheimer

After the release of the movie, everybody started to learn more about the life and scientific studies of Oppenheimer. Robert Oppenheimer, who played a crucial role in the field of theoretical physics worldwide, was born in the United States on April 22, 1904. 



After earning a bachelor's degree from Harvard University in 1925, he earned a doctorate from the University of Göttingen in Germany in 1927. After research and studies in different institutions, the successful physicist joined the physics department at the University of California, Berkeley, and became a full professor in 1936.




He made significant contributions to theoretical physics, including studies in quantum mechanics and nuclear physics such as the Born–Oppenheimer Approximation for molecular wave functions. He stood out with the studies he carried out about black holes, neutron stars and quantum field theory with his students.




In 1942, Oppenheimer joined the Manhattan Project, and in 1943, he was placed as the director of the Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico, with the role to develop the first nuclear weapons. On July 16, 1945, he took part at the testing of the first atomic bomb, named Trinity.  On February 18, 1967, at the age of 62, Oppenheimer died of throat cancer in New Jersey. 



Oppenheimer and Einstein

The story of how the famous physicists Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer, who had disagreements on the atomic bomb, met is interesting. In 1926, Einstein visited the University of Göttingen to give a speech, and Oppenheimer was among the audience, which laid the foundations of their friendship.



These two scientists teamed up in studies on nuclear physics and quantum mechanics and had scientific conversations and time together. They always praised each other for the scientific works and talents. Even though Einstein and Oppenheimer exchanged ideas with one another, they also had some disagreements.   




The first atomic bomb detonated, which is known as the Trinity Test, while Oppenheimer was the director of the Manhattan Project. These two also had discussions on ethical issues. The atomic bomb was one of these ethical issues. Einstein condemned the development of the atomic bomb, while Oppenheimer had contributions to the development of the atomic bomb. You can also take a look at our article The Life of Theoretical Physicist and Scientist Albert Einstein to learn more about the life of the great physicist and scientist Einstein.


Oppenheimer and the Atomic Bomb

Oppenheimer is referred to as one of the most important scientists of the 20th century and marked the world history with his studies in nuclear physics. On July 16, 1945, the atomic bomb was tested for the first time, and the repercussions of the largest explosion ever have lasted for years. This explosion, the shockwave of which reverberated up to 160 kilometers away and had a blast equivalent of approximately 21 kilotons of TNT, started big discussions. 


During the interviews he gave in 1960, J. Robert Oppenheimer said: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." In 1945, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, resulting in worldwide destruction and the deaths of thousands of people. In 1954, Oppenheimer was banned from scientific researches in consequence of the investigation carried out by the government.



The Movie "Oppenheimer"

The life of the famous physicist was adapted into a movie.  The movie, where Cillian Murphy played Julius Robert Oppenhimer, and Emily Blunt played his wife, Kitty Oppenheimer, has made a splash. Directed by the experienced director Christopher Nolan, the movie released on the same day across the world. Telling about the life of Oppenheimer and how the atomic bomb was developed, the movie received a great deal of attention in our country, too.  



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  • Stephanie R. McDaniel
  • 01-10-2023

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