Life,  Tech

The Brilliant but Tragic Life of Julius Robert Oppenheimer, the Father of the Atomic Bomb

  1
  When World War II entered the first half of 1942, the U.S. government finally made up its mind to devote all its efforts to developing an unheard-of super bomb-the atomic bomb.
  Many people now know the cause: On August 2, 1939, scientists headed by Einstein wrote a sincere letter to President Roosevelt, hoping that the president would order an all-out effort to develop nuclear weapons – the Germans were already at Hessen The work started first under the auspices of Fort. If this kind of super bomb was in the hands of the Nazis who dehumanized humanity, it would be an outcome that no one could dare to imagine. Although no one has done this work before, you can imagine that it will be a very large project.
  The question then arises: Who will lead this project?
  Was it Einstein who took the lead in writing the letter? Ability, qualifications and prestige are naturally enough, but due to some other reasons, this talented scientist was the first to be excluded. So, should we choose one of the Nobel Prize winners who came to the United States from all directions at that time? Logically speaking, for someone responsible for such a high-end and confidential project, “winning a Nobel Prize” should be the minimum threshold. However, when the name of the person in charge of the “Manhattan Project” was finally announced, it was somewhat unexpected – it was a scientist who had not won a Nobel Prize: Julius Robert Oppenheimer.
  If IQ and academic qualifications are taken as a threshold, then Oppenheimer is undoubtedly qualified.
  On April 22, 1904, Oppenheimer was born into a wealthy German-Jewish family in New York. His father was an entrepreneur in the textile industry and his mother was a painter. To this day, Oppenheimer is enough to be envied by people around him – he is a rich second generation and a super genius.
  Take a look at Oppenheimer’s growth experience: he was influenced by his mother at an early age and dabbled in various fields such as art, literature, philosophy, history, science and language; at the age of 11, he became the youngest member of the New York Mineral Club because of his achievements in mineral research. Member; graduated with first place from Fieldston School of Arts and Sciences in New York at the age of 18 (many political, business and cultural celebrities in the United States came from this school), and was admitted to the Department of Chemistry at Harvard University.
  At Harvard University, other students usually only choose 4 courses, but he chose 7, but he still complained that “there are too few homeworks.” As proof, it only took him three years to graduate from Harvard University with “magna cum laude” grades. There is a special note on his graduation photo: “He has only been a college student for three years.”
  After graduating from college, Oppenheimer came to Europe. He felt that his original chemistry major was a bit boring, and he became deeply fascinated by physics. He first entered the famous Cavendish Laboratory of the University of Cambridge in England and studied under the physics god Rutherford (known as the greatest experimental physicist after Faraday and winner of the 1908 Nobel Prize in Chemistry). But Rutherford believed that this talented disciple was more suitable for theoretical physics, so Oppenheimer was recommended by Born (the founder of quantum mechanics and winner of the 1954 Nobel Prize in Physics) to the famous University of Göttingen. There, Oppenheimer met the top geniuses in the world of physics at that time: Bohr, Dirac, Heisenberg, Pauli and so on. This period of study career had a huge impact on Oppenheimer and allowed his talents to be fully utilized.
  Born once recalled that when Oppenheimer was a graduate student under him, he often interrupted the speeches of others (including teachers) and then walked to the blackboard, picked up chalk and started writing equations: “This will be better.” Later, many students united He got up and wrote a letter of protest to Born. Born quietly placed the letter where Oppenheimer could easily see it, so Oppenheimer obviously restrained himself a lot when he later participated in the discussion.
  In 1927, Oppenheimer received his doctorate in quantum mechanics and decided to return to the United States not long after. At that time, many prestigious universities in the United States vied with each other to offer teaching invitations to Oppenheimer. He finally chose the University of California, Berkeley—it is said that it was because the library there had a good collection of classical literature books. There is no doubt that Oppenheimer is qualified in terms of IQ, education and qualifications. However, among the scientists participating in the “Manhattan Project”, which one is not a “genius + academic master”? Throw a pie at these scientists from the second floor and it’s hard not to hit a Nobel Prize winner. However, Oppenheimer became a leader precisely because of this.
  2
  The person who most firmly recommended Oppenheimer was Ernest Lawrence.
  Ernest Lawrence was the inventor of the high-energy particle cyclotron and the winner of the 1939 Nobel Prize in Physics. He was also a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley.
  The reason for Lawrence’s recommendation is simple but persuasive: The “Manhattan Project” is a super project that will unite the world’s top brains. However, the more top-notch scientists are, the more “arrogant” they are. There must be someone who understands science. Talented people who understand management can manage these people, operate them efficiently, and achieve the goals as quickly as possible. Oppenheimer seemed to be a natural managerial talent. He gave persuasive speeches, was approachable, and had good relationships with top scientists in the entire American physics community. At the same time, his business abilities were not looked down upon by his peers. .
  After eliminating a group of top scientists with “questionable loyalty” (such as immigrating to the United States), Oppenheimer’s family background and loyalty (being born in the United States became a plus for Oppenheimer at the time) were repeatedly reviewed. , after he wrote the letter of guarantee, he was finally appointed as the chief scientist and chief laboratory director of the entire “Manhattan Project”. Oppenheimer lived up to this mission. As the commander-in-chief of the “Manhattan Project”, which cost US$2.5 billion and involved more than 500,000 people at its peak, Oppenheimer fully demonstrated his scientific literacy and management skills.
  Under his lobbying and instigation, the world’s top physicists and Nobel Prize winners such as Bohr, Fermi, Chadwick, and Frisch all joined in.
  Oppenheimer brought together all the laboratories that were originally scattered across the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States that were engaged in atomic bomb-related work, and personally selected the Los Alamos Desert in New Mexico as the main laboratory to unify the leadership of the work.
  In that inaccessible and desolate desert, more than 6,000 of the world’s top scientific researchers gathered at one time. Oppenheimer took charge of everything from scientific experiments to medical and health care to regional transportation and even to the education of scientists’ children. He only sleeps 4 hours a day. At 7 o’clock in the morning, he blows the first wake-up whistle to urge everyone to start the day’s work.
  Oppenheimer’s efforts were unanimously recognized by the U.S. military and scientists, including the always picky nuclear physicist Edward Teller, who was at odds with Oppenheimer (he later invented the hydrogen bomb and was known as the “father of the hydrogen bomb”). Father”) also lamented after participating in the “Manhattan Project”: “I don’t know how Oppenheimer did all this, but without him, I don’t know when this project would have been successful.” July 16,
  1945 At 5:30 in the morning on the same day, the first atomic bomb in human history was successfully exploded in the Los Alamos Desert.
  At the moment of the explosion, more than 1,000 spectators invited to watch the scene cheered. However, as the chief designer, Oppenheimer looked at the mushroom cloud rising into the sky, but felt fear from the bottom of his heart. He suddenly thought of an excerpt from “Song of the Blessed One” in the Indian Sanskrit poem “Mahabharata Sutra” that he often read (Oppenheimer can speak 8 languages, including Sanskrit): “The sky is full of strange lights, like The Holy Spirit shows off his power. Only a thousand suns can compete with it.…”
  3
  In fact, Oppenheimer’s belief had already been shaken when the development of the atomic bomb was coming to an end. During that time, news came from Europe that the Soviet army had captured Berlin and that Hitler had committed suicide. In the US military’s Pacific battlefield, the Japanese army has been retreating steadily, and surrender is only a matter of time. This caused the scientists who worked day and night to develop the atomic bomb to lose the greatest motivation – to develop the atomic bomb as early as possible to prevent Nazi Germany from taking the lead. Today, this threat has been eliminated.
  Now that the Allies were fully capable of winning the war, scientists fell into deep self-blame: Is the advent of this super-killing weapon still necessary?
  Scientists, including Oppenheimer, put forward a naive suggestion: Can we just choose a no-man’s land and conduct a demonstration bombing?
  This suggestion was quickly rejected by the US government: The “Manhattan Project” lasted three years and cost billions of dollars. If it was not used in actual combat and produced no results, how could it be explained to Congress? How to explain to taxpayers? How to explain to those who oppose it?
  On August 6 and August 9, 1945, atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, and more than 100,000 people were wiped out in a flash of white light.
  In October of that year, Oppenheimer resigned as director of the Los Alamos Laboratory and returned to teach at the University of California, Berkeley. At this time, he had already become famous and attracted worldwide attention. Two years later, Oppenheimer was elected director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the most authoritative institution in the United States, and served as chairman of the “General Advisory Committee” under the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, the U.S. government’s energy decision-making agency.
  This was the highest political status imaginable for a scientist in the United States at that time. Oppenheimer used his own abilities and performance to create a precedent for scientists to influence the decision-making of the U.S. government. However, Oppenheimer, who had reached this stage by developing nuclear weapons, began to persuade the US government to stop and limit nuclear weapons research. Because as a scientist, he believes that he and the team he leads have not increased the well-being of all mankind, but have cast a shadow on the future of the entire civilization.
  ”The Biography of Truman” specifically records such a plot: Oppenheimer met the then US President Truman and said to him excitedly: “Mr. President, my hands are stained with blood.” And Truman’s answer Even more excited than Oppenheimer: “I am the one covered in blood! The blood on your hands is not half as much as mine! Just leave this matter to me!”
  After Oppenheimer left, Truman told those around him that he never wanted to see this man again. Oppenheimer still did not realize the US government’s determination to develop nuclear weapons. On July 1, 1946, the United States tested the fourth atomic bomb on Bikini Island. Oppenheimer refused to attend the visit and wrote to Truman in advance to request that the explosion test be abandoned.
  Truman once again commented on Oppenheimer: “a crybaby scientist.”
  As another measure to prevent the development of nuclear weapons, Oppenheimer clearly rejected the scientist Edward Teller who came to him for support at the time, saying that he “would not contribute, and was unwilling to contribute” – Teller hoped to get Oppenheimer at the time. With Mo’s support, he continued to research a hydrogen bomb more powerful than the atomic bomb. However, as a scientist, Oppenheimer did not clearly realize that the international situation at that time had changed dramatically:
  at the end of World War II, an “Iron Curtain” slowly fell between the former allies, the Soviet Union and Europe and the United States. On August 29, 1949, the Soviet Union announced that it had successfully tested its first atomic bomb. The “nuclear monopoly” that the Americans had painstakingly established was broken in just four years; through the “War of Liberation”, the Chinese Communist Party In more than three years, it has established an unshakable advantage in China; in the Korean battlefield, the Chinese Volunteer Army, whose weapons and logistics were obviously backward, actually nailed the Sixteen-Nation Allied Forces led by the United States to the “38th Parallel”…
  What Americans urgently need now is to further establish an advantage over the communist world in nuclear weapons. How could they listen to Oppenheimer’s dissuasion?
  On November 1, 1952, the first hydrogen bomb in human history, code-named “Mike”, was detonated on the Eniwetok coral island in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean. The explosion yield was equivalent to 500 times the Hiroshima atomic bomb. The person who led the hydrogen bomb project was Edward Teller, who was initially rejected by Oppenheimer but later received support from the U.S. government. It was during this period that Oppenheimer’s life began to take a turn for the worse.
  4
  In 1952, Eisenhower, the five-star Allied General of World War II, was elected President of the United States. If it was because of Roosevelt’s use of Oppenheimer that his successor Truman was still somewhat fearful and awed, then Eisenhower, who was a soldier, had no feelings at all towards Oppenheimer, who had always been opposed to U.S. policies.
  To make matters worse, the Eisenhower administration was precisely the time when the extremely anti-communist “McCarthyism” became popular. Like many outstanding scientists, even those who became famous, like Oppenheimer, were not immune to this movement.
  In early December 1953, Oppenheimer went to England to give a popular science lecture. During this period, FBI Director Hoover finally convinced President Eisenhower that Oppenheimer was a dangerous communist and probably an “agent” of the Soviet Union in the U.S. nuclear field. For this reason, when Oppenheimer returned to China on December 21, he was told that he would either voluntarily resign from his administrative position in the US government or attend a hearing to accuse him.
  Although Oppenheimer knew that he had been closely monitored and monitored when he was in charge of research on the atomic bomb, he was still greatly shocked. He refused to resign without hesitation and decided to attend the hearing. On December 23, the four-week hearing against Oppenheimer kicked off. This is the famous “Oppenheimer incident” in history. During the hearing, the FBI listed 24 charges against Oppenheimer, but they mainly summarized them into two points:
  First, when Oppenheimer was young, he had contact with and maintained contacts with a large number of left-wing organizations (Oppenheimer was young) He was indeed very sympathetic to and supported communism. He used part of his father’s $300,000 inheritance to fund the “International Brigade” that volunteered to go to Spain to defend the Republic at that time), and among his students were a large number of left-wingers and even communists. His wife Harry Sen is a left-winger, and his younger brother Frank Oppenheimer joined the Communist Party of the United States (Oppenheimer’s younger brother was also a talented nuclear physicist, but was later deprived of his teaching position due to the “McCarthy Act” and had to go to Become a herdsman and herd cattle). Second, Oppenheimer has been “heavy obstruction” and holding a “negative attitude” towards the United States’ development of hydrogen bombs. This is obviously speaking for the Soviet Union and is disloyal to his motherland, the United States.
  Oppenheimer himself denied all the accusations at the hearing, but it seems that the government has no intention of listening to his defense and the public’s voice.
  In the end, the trial committee of the hearing issued a verdict: “Oppenheimer was not found to have acted disloyal to the country.”
  But ironically, after setting this definition, the U.S. government decided to deprive Oppenheimer of his right to All security clearances and authorities prohibit him from having any contact with all atomic energy projects. This was undoubtedly a huge blow to Oppenheimer, because he had always hoped to use his political identity to promote the peaceful use of atomic energy on an international scale. As Oppenheimer was about to celebrate his 50th birthday, his life fell from the peak to the bottom. Over the next few years, Oppenheimer aged rapidly.
  5
  Oppenheimer finally spent nine years waiting for his “rehabilitation.”
  In 1960, John F. Kennedy was elected president. At that time, the crazy wave caused by “McCarthyism” had receded. Shortly after being elected, Kennedy revealed to his staff that he wanted to compensate a group of people led by Oppenheimer who had been persecuted (including Chaplin). Forest).
  The method Kennedy chose for Oppenheimer was to award him the Fermi Prize, the highest award in atomic energy in the United States in 1963, and a bonus of US$50,000 (equivalent to the annual salary of the US Secretary of State at the time). However, just 10 days before the awards, Kennedy was assassinated. Kennedy’s successor, Johnson, was a guest at the ceremony on December 23, 1963. At the award ceremony, the 59-year-old Oppenheimer accidentally tripped while walking to the podium, and President Johnson hurriedly reached out to help him.
  But Oppenheimer pushed Johnson’s hand away and said: “Mr. President, when a person is about to grow old, it is useless for you to help him. Only those young people need your support.” In his speech of thanks, he said: “I think today’s ceremony requires your courage and tolerance. I think this is a sign of our bright future.” When he said this, Oppenheimer already knew that although the government used This approach restored his reputation, but still prohibited him from accessing all secrets about atomic energy. Oppenheimer finally retired in 1966, but soon discovered that he had throat cancer. Oppenheimer died of throat cancer on February 18, 1967, at the age of 63. In accordance with his will, his body was cremated and his ashes scattered in the Virgin Islands.

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