Julius Robert Oppenheimer once proclaimed, “As long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost and science can never regress”. This quote not only signifies the high intelligence and intellect of J. Robert Oppenheimer, but it shows his believe that man and science are deeply imbedded in each other. Julius Robert Oppenheimer lived a life devoted to science, and though he may have regretted some of his research, he made enormous contributions to our current knowledge of the building of the atom bomb.
Julius Robert Oppenheimer (or J. Robert Oppenheimer as he cam to be known) was born in New York City on April 22, 1904. As a child, Oppenheimer attended the Ethical Culture School in New York City, on Central Park West, which promoted nonsectarian or nonreligious ethical principles. While Oppenheimer attended school there, he was a stand out even among the other bright and wealthy students. One summer during his high school years, Oppenheimer helped his science teacher, Augustus Klock, set-up the lab equipment for the next year. As a reward for his work, Klock and Oppenheimer would often go mineral hunting. At this point in Robert Oppenheimer’s life, he realized that he had a love for chemistry. After High school Oppenheimer attended Harvard University and continued to study his passion of science but he also pursued languages, and writing poems and short stories.
When Oppenheimer graduated Harvard in 1925, he went to Europe to work in laboratories with two highly regarded scientists, Ernest Rutherford, and Max Born. While working with these two scientists Oppenheimer became frustrated that he had a limited experimental ability. However, Working with these prominent scientists must have helped him later on his life with his own experiments. During the 1920’s, Oppenheimer research was devoted to the energy processes of subatomic particles.
In 1927, Oppenheimer returned to the United States and began to teach at the University of California Berkeley. While at UCB, Oppenheimer became more politically active. He became more political during the rise of Hitlerism in Germany and especially during the Spanish Civil War in 1936. During the Spanish Civil War, Oppenheimer sided with the republic and that is when he was acquainted with communist students. Only one year later, however, Oppenheimer withdrew from the communist party. In 1939, when Germany invaded Poland, Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard warned the U.S. government that if the Nazis made a nuclear bomb, it would threaten the world. Oppenheimer took this warning very seriously and began to seek the separation process of uranium-325 from natural uranium, and to make a nuclear bomb he needed to determine the critical mass of uranium required. To put it in the simplest of terms, World War II scared Oppenheimer.
In the August of 1942, the Manhattan Project began. Its purpose was to harness nuclear energy for military purpose, or to make a nuclear bomb. Oppenheimer was named the administrator and instructed to establish a laboratory where tests could be done. Oppenheimer chose the plateau of Los Alamos, New Mexico. While he was at Los Alamos, he mostly acted as an arbiter for disputes among the scientists about the contents of the bomb, etc. Finally, after years of work, on July 16, 1945 at Alamogordo, New Mexico, after Germany had surrendered, the first nuclear explosion was occurred.
On August 6, 1945 the first atomic bomb, Little Boy, was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. It was dropped on Japan to end the war but it wasn’t successful. Another bomb needed to be dropped on Japan. On August 10th, the second atomic bomb, Fat Man, was dropped over Nagasaki, Japan. The second atomic bomb got America’s point across. On August 10, 1945 Japan surrendered. This proved that Oppenheimer’s help in designing the atomic bomb was effective.
Oppenheimer’s story goes on beyond World War II and the development of the atomic bomb. From 1947-1952 Oppenheimer was the head of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton and he also served as Chairman of the General Advisory Committee of the Atomic Energy Commission. On December 23, 1953, during McCarthyism in the U.S., Oppenheimer was accused of: associating with communists in the past, delaying the naming of Soviet agents, and opposing the building of the hydrogen