Its strange how the thousands of events that made up one mans life eventually had a role in the fate of almost 200 thousand Japanese people and later the entire world. Here is the life of the one man. The man is J. Robert Oppenheimer. So little had an impact on so much. He was the man who was in charge of the Manhattan Project.
It was the U. S. project to make an atomic bomb. A bomb with, at the time, unimaginable power.
A bomb so powerful it could single-handedly destroy an entire city. J. Robert Oppenheimer was born to well to do Jewish parents on the twenty-second of April 1904. His father, Julius, ran a textile business and his mother, Ella, was a painter. He was born Robert Oppenheimer but his father felt this name wasnt good enough so he added his initial J.
in front. Relations of J. Roberts grandfather came to New York in the later 1870 s to start up a business of importing cloth. Julius came to America in 1888 at the age of 17. He didnt even speak English. He was to specialize in the importing of mens clothing.
He felt this was a growing area of interest and that he could make money. Robert visited Germany at age 5 and his grandfather introduced him to the hobby of mineralogy, which he kept up with for years to come. He even joined the New York Mineralogy Club at just eleven years old. Robert was good in school and did particularly well. By the time he was eleven years old he was able to speak much Greek. He was said to try to soak up as much knowledge as possible.
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He didnt like sports. He tried to play tennis but because he was bad at it, he didnt want to continue. He spoke many different languages including Latin, Greek, French, and German. He often learned a language just so he could read a book in its original language. In just six weeks, he learned Dutch just so he could give a presentation in the Netherlands. After his last year of school, he went to Germany with his parents but contract trench dysentery, which also gave rise to colitis.
He had problems with digestion from then on. When he returned to New York he was too sick to attend Harvard so he waited until the following year. He completed a four-year chemistry program in just three years and he also graduated summa cum laude in 1925. He also studied eastern philosophy and physics at Harvard. He continued his post-graduate work in physics at the Cavendish laboratory in Cambridge.
He didnt do to well at Cambridge at first. It may have been to much stress from all the studying at Harvard. He saw a psychiatrist who said that he had dementia praecox, now discarded and thought to be something with symptoms like schizophrenia. He eventually took a vacation to Corsica. He and some friends hiked around the island. The break was just what he needed and it helped him to heal.
He became a little more stable mentally. He had recovered from his depression. On his way back to Cambridge, he meet his first love, Katherine Page. He also decided not to stay much longer at Cambridge.
He continued his work at the University of Goettingen. It was more of a theoretical center than Cambridge. Here he and Max Born developed the Born-Oppenheimer Method, their contribution to molecular quantum theory. He obtained his Ph.
D. in 1927. He went to Harvard as a research fellow and this took him to the California Institute of Technology. He taught and did research. He later accepted an academic position at the University of California-Berkley. He investigated electron-positron pairs, cosmic ray theory, and deuteron reactions.
In the 30 s he allied with Communist students to side with the republic during the Spanish Civil War. He was; however, never a member of the Communist Party. He protested the mistreatment of scientist under Stains rule. On November first Robert married Kitty Punning. She was a German and claimed to be a German princess. He parents had come to the United States when she was two.
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Robert was her fourth husband. In May of 1941 she gave birth to their first child, Peter. In 1939 Niels Bohr brought news that the Germans had split the Atom. Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard told the U.
S. that it was dangerous to allow the Nazis to have the power of the atom. The United States started the Manhattan Project, and American led-military effort to make the bomb for wartime use. Oppenheimer soon became involved and in 1942 Gen.
Groves chose him to direct the Manhattan Project. Oppenheimer later suggested that instead of the scientists working on the project in several areas, they should all be located at one facility. Groves approved the idea and the Manhattan Project moved to Los Alamos. Robert believed that it would be better to concentrate everybody in one area for reasons of making it easier to accomplish work and share ideas and Groves liked the idea because it increased security. In early research of the bomb scientist knew very little. They worked on the basis that nuclear fission provided an incredible amount of energy for just a little bit of matter.
It would only take a fraction of the amount of nuclear fragments to produce the same amount of energy as a large amount of TNT. There was a theory that if you bombarded a large nucleus with a neutron you could split the atom and this fission would create a large amount of energy. Also the splitting of the nucleus es would cause a chain reaction sending neutrons outward to spit other atoms. At first they werent sure if the chain reaction would occur. At one time there were afraid that a nuclear explosion would set ablaze the entire atmosphere. Teller came up with some calculations on the heat build-up in a fission reaction.
He concluded that there might be enough heat to cause a reaction between the deuterium and nitrogen. Since nitrogen makes up about 80 percent of the atmosphere this may set light to the nitrogen in the atmosphere. Some believed they would rather be slaves of the Nazis than to destroy all of the life on Earth. This would be the ultimate catastrophe. Better to accept the slavery of the Nazis than to run a chance of drawing the final curtain on mankind! We agreed there could be only one answer. Oppenheimer team must go ahead with their calculations.
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Unless they came up with a firm and reliable conclusion that our atomic bombs could not explode the air of the sea, these bombs must never be made (Goodchild p. 54).
The scientists had to solve a problem of pre-detonation. On sub-critical mass had to be joined with another to create a critical mass, which would start the chain reaction and the subsequent detonation.
The problem was that if the masses were not joined quickly enough they might go critical too soon and the bomb would blow itself to bits causing relatively little damage to anything else. If the masses joined to quickly the chain reactions of the neutrons would start too soon. Their first proposed method was the gun-method, which was where on sub-critical mass was propelled into the center of the other sub-critical mass. This method, however, was thought to possibly be too slow. Eventually they came up with a solution in which they surrounded the masses with smaller explosive devices. They used shape-charges to get the desired patterns need to reach critical mass at the crucial moment.
Eventually the scientist passed all the obstacles and made the atomic bomb. Oppenheimer had thought that it would take four years to produce the bomb but it took only twenty-seven months after the start of the project before the first test was conducted. In May of 1945 Oppenheimer was on the panel of four scientists who discussed the case for the military use of the bomb on Japan. Their opinion was to demonstration of the bombs power would not be enough, but that the bomb would have to be used on a real military target. That was true because it took two bombs to be dropped on targets before Japan finally surrender. The first test was Trinity in August of 1945 in the New Mexican desert.
Oppenheimer witnessed the first test of the bomb and stated We knew the world would not be the same. In August of 1945 the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima killing nearly 100, 000 people and leveling the city. A few weeks later another, stronger bomb was dropped on Nagasaki with even worse effects. The Japanese finally surrendered to the United States aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September second. The reason the bomb was used instead of a proposed invasion was to save lives. The Americans concluded that more than a million U.
... the ultimate destructive device ever used: the atomic bomb. Even as the awesome power of the atomic bomb continued to be discovered, research continued ... to limiting loss of human life. Working concurrently with nuclear scientists, researchers began to explore a weapon that would completely disable ...
S. troops would be needed for the invasion of Japan and that the Japanese would resist to the last man. Nearly a million troops would be needed in reserve of the initial million. Therefore the bomb quit possibly saved more lives than it took. However, Oppenheimer seeing the devastation, decided to resign two months later. After the war Oppenheimer became an advisor for the United Nations and the government.
He proposed many international regulations for nuclear power. He chaired the General Advisory Committee of the Atomic Energy Commission. The commission and he disagreed on the development of a more powerful hydrogen bomb. He served on many committees, which influenced the policy of the use of nuclear weapons and energy. Oppenheimer did lack enthusiasm for the hydrogen bomb. He was probably brought under suspicion of Communists actions because of his reluctance.
Before the Second World War, Robert had some communist connections and was affiliated with many organizations but he was never a member of the communist party. This was also during the McCarthy era, in which many important and famous people were being accused of being communists. As a result Oppenheimer lost his security clearance. He also lost much of his influence on nuclear power; a fact that much of his enemies enjoyed. He got his vengeance when, in 1963, he was awarded the Enrico Fermi Award.
The highest prize awarded by the Atomic Energy Commission; given to him by President Johnson. Oppenheimer was a smoker and after many years of this practice he contracted throat cancer and passed away on 18 February 1967. He was considered to be the father of the atomic bomb because he directed the group of scientist at the Los Alamos Laboratory, which developed the bomb. His influence and charisma allowed him to obtain some of the best scientist in the world for the project. He was considered a great teacher by many of his students. He attracted the best and brightest of them to where ever he taught.
He was one of the foremost minds in theoretical physics. Despite the destruction that his development caused, it probably saved more lives than it took. He was later persecuted because of his communist dealings early in his career, but before that he was an enormous influence on the policy of nuclear energy. 1. ) Goodchild, Peter. Shattered of Worlds Fromm International Publishing Corporation New York, 1985 2.
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