Robert Oppenheimer Fact File Biography: Lifespan: 1904 - 1967 *** Full Name: Julius Robert Oppenheimer *** Nickname: Oppie *** Occupation: Theoretical Physicist *** Date of Birth: Robert Oppenheimer was born on April 22nd, 1904 *** Place of Birth: Robert Oppenheimer was born in New York City, New York, USA *** Family background: His father was Julius Oppenheimer of Jewish decent and his mother was Ella Friedman, an artist. He had a younger brother called Frank who would follow in his footsteps *** Early life and childhood: Robert Oppenheimer grew up in an area of new York full of town houses and luxurious mansions *** Education: He began his education at Alcuin Preparatory School and in 1911 would be sent to Ethical Culture Society School, their motto being “Deed before Creed.” ***
Robert Oppenheimer Fact 1: Robert Oppenheimer was born on April 22nd, 1904 at the beginning of the 20th century, a time that would see much change and innovation as well as death and destruction in the first half of the century alone.
Robert Oppenheimer Fact 2: Robert Oppenheimer had been a very bright student, even to the extent that he finished his third and fourth grades in one year and completed his eighth grade in half a year.
Robert Oppenheimer Fact 3: Robert Oppenheimer attended Harvard College at eighteen years of age.
Robert Oppenheimer Fact 4: He went on to be accepted at Christ’s College in Cambridge, England in 1924 and applied to be given permission to use the Cavendish Laboratory.
Robert Oppenheimer Fact 5: The type of person that often neglected his own health while in the throes of his work, forgetting to eat and a very heavy smoker. Robert Oppenheimer also tended to show depressive tendencies.
Robert Oppenheimer Fact 6: Robert Oppenheimer went on to attend the University of Gottingen under Max Born where he earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree.
Robert Oppenheimer Fact 7: On his return to America he was awarded a fellowship by the United States National Research Council to attend California Institute of Technology. At the same time he was asked to attend Harvard and it was agreed to split his fellowship.
Robert Oppenheimer Fact 8: After a brief visit to the University of Leiden in the Netherlands Robert Oppenheimer went on to Zurich to work with Wolfgang Pauli on quantum mechanics and the continuous spectrum.
Robert Oppenheimer Fact 9: On his return to the US he accepted a post at the University of California, Berkeley on the condition that he share his time with Caltech.
Robert Oppenheimer Fact 10: His scientific work comprised of theoretical astronomy (in relation to general relatively and nuclear theory), nuclear physics, spectroscopy and quantum field theory together with its extension into quantum electrodynamics.
Robert Oppenheimer Fact 11: Robert Oppenheimer was also attracted to formal mathematics of relativistic quantum mechanics.
Robert Oppenheimer Fact 12: A theory of his, still in use, was a collaboration with Melba Phillips that would become known as the Oppenheimer-Phillips process.
Robert Oppenheimer Fact 13: Robert Oppenheimer married Katherine Harrison on November 1st 1940 and together they had two children, a son and a daughter.
Robert Oppenheimer Fact 14: Although it was never categorically proved, Robert Oppenheimer was investigated for his political leanings, some believing that he had become a communist as he was known to have contact with a large number of known communists.
Robert Oppenheimer Fact 15: His next big assignment would be his involvement with the Manhattan Project. This was a program approved by President Franklin D Roosevelt on the eve of the US entering World War II in 1941 and was intended to develop the atomic bomb.
Robert Oppenheimer Fact 16: As the work proceeded he, together with General Groves decided that a top secret facility was required for security reasons as well as cohesion and a site in New Mexico was chosen.
Robert Oppenheimer Fact 17: Robert Oppenheimer had originally envisaged several hundred people working on the project but by 1943 six thousand people were involved.
Robert Oppenheimer Fact 18: The first synthetic nuclear explosion took place near Alamogordo, on a cite codenamed Trinity, on July 16th 1945 as a result of the joint efforts of the scientist from the Los Alamos site. A verse he says popped into his head at this time was “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
Robert Oppenheimer Fact 19: It would be in August of 1945, in the closing stages of World War II, the atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with devastating results.
Robert Oppenheimer Fact 20: Robert Oppenheimer died on February 15th 1967 after succumbing to throat cancer. He was at his home in Princeton, New Jersey.
Influence & Legacy: As the result of his love of science, he would become one of the most hated and detested men of the 20th century for the creation of a destructive force so violent it literally tears the land apart together with thousands upon thousands of lives. He would be humiliated and would become the symbol for many because of his naivety in thinking scientists could control how their work was used. Although many saw his as the bringer of death he did leave another legacy to be proud of. He was the creator of “the greatest school of theoretical physics that the United States has ever known.” H also established a graduate program at Berkeley University.