J. Robert Oppenheimer and His Beautiful and Sad Story

Do you know what the most amazing, interesting and attractive creatures of the universe are? The universe itself? Stars? blackholes? Supernovas? Big bang? Solar system? Galaxies? Planets? The earth? What? None of them! Humans are the most amazing, interesting and attractive creatures. At least, as long as we think that humans are the only intelligent living-things in the universe, they are more interesting than anything else. You never get tired of hearing and learning about humans. Each of them are 100% unique and the things each of them does is different from others. You always discover lots of amazing, shocking and interesting things about them and yet there are so many things to discover and learn. If you notice, you will see that we spend most of our time thinking and talking about humans, and we never get tired of it, nor does it ever become boring. And, to me, J. Robert Oppenheimer is an infinite ocean that can never be fully understood and known. He is one of my most favorite people. His life never stops teaching you something new to amaze you.

J. Robert Oppenheimer
J. Robert Oppenheimer

J. Robert Oppenheimer was a genius physicist, but indeed, he was a polymath. A polymath is someone who knows a lot about lots of different unrelated subjects. While he was a genius physicist, he was also a poet and novelist, and he knew almost about everything. The world, especially The United States, is forever in his debt, because what he did, saved the world, although he became regretful about it, in a way that caused him to go into periods of deep depression.

He is more known as Robert Oppenheimer. His father was German and his mother was an American art teacher. When he was still too young, he went to the University of Göttingen in Germany to study physics. That was the time that he showed his excessive talent in that subject. Within about three years, he published 16 invaluable articles in physics. Quantum physics looked a lot more attractive to him, and so, when he was 25, he knew about quantum physics more than any American. He came back to the United States very soon, because he was an American after all, and he loved America. He started working at the university of California and Berkeley as a physics professor.

Oppenheimer was still in love with quantum physics. In 1939, he published an article about stars and the way they turn into blackholes (here). The article impressed everyone because what he predicted and mathematically formulated, wasn’t understood through a lab experiment, exactly like the theory of relativity that Einstein introduced to the world. Only on paper and through math formulas and equations, they proved what they were talking about, without any experiment. Gradually, what they had talked about became proven in reality too.

This proves how genius and talented Oppenheimer was. He could become and remain someone like Einstein; just a scientist, researcher and professor. But, a chain of events changed the course of Oppenheimer’s life. Shortly after Oppenheimer’s article about stars and their conversion into blackholes, a German article (here) attracted Oppenheimer’s attention, even more than quantum physics and blackholes. Before that, humans thought that atoms couldn’t become split. But the article showed how atoms could become split into two or more other particles to release lots of energy at the same time. This phenomenon was named nuclear fission. After reading the article, Oppenheimer said: “I think it is really not too improbable that a 10 centimeter cube of uranium deuteride might very well blow itself to hell.”

That was the time that Oppenheimer’s life changed. A genius that could have a normal life as a professor, became the head of a secret project to build something that humans couldn’t even imagine at that time. Although this project also changed the world, it caused Oppenheimer to die very soon because of the excessive mental pressures, hostilities, jealousies, several phases of depression, etc. Oppenheimer’s life is too complicated and interesting, and also too sad and heartbreaking.

A few years after the article, in October 1942, on a train to New York city, Robert Oppenheimer was accidentally sharing a cabin with an army officer, Lieutenant General Leslie Richard Groves. Groves had received a commend to build a nuclear bomb because Americans thought that Nazis were trying hard to do it (based on the same German article published in 1939), and if they could do it sooner than the rest of the world, Hitler would win the second world war and would take the control of the world. Americans had no choice but to do it sooner than Hitler. We can say that it was a miracle that Groves met Robert Oppenheimer in the train, because although he had received a commend to build a nuclear bomb, he didn’t know who could help him to do it. But, after meeting Robert Oppenheimer in the train, he chose him as the technical director of the secret project that was called The Manhattan Project.

Lieutenant General Leslie Richard Groves
Lieutenant General Leslie Richard Groves

There were so many in the army intelligence that were against choosing Robert Oppenheimer because he was in touch with so many communists in America, and even his girlfriend, Jean Tatlock, was a communist. However, Groves insisted that he was right about Robert Oppenheimer, and he really was right. Robert Oppenheimer was the best person to do something that had never been done before in reality. Everything about nuclear fission was just on paper. Although math formulas couldn’t be wrong, it is still too hard to turn something that is only on paper into reality.

That was the time that jealousy of the nasty people started. They said Oppenheimer was just a theorist and couldn’t even run a hamburger stand. The army also refused to authorize his security clearance. But Groves’ decision was made and he started the project with Robert Oppenheimer.

Long story short, on 16th of July 1945, that is about less than 3 years since Groves and Oppenheimer met, Robert Oppenheimer tested the first nuclear bomb. Until the last second, even General Groves didn’t believe that the bomb would work. He said, “I was thinking that what I would do if the countdown got to zero and nothing happened!!!”

But the countdown started… 9… 8… 7… 6… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… 💥

At 5:29:45am in Los Alamos desert, the first nuclear bomb was detonated. The bomb’s yield exceeded the most optimistic predictions.

During the project and after that, jealous people made Oppenheimer’s life like hell. They did anything they could to destroy him. Another physicist, Edward Teller, who was also a genius scientist, was after another kind of nuclear bomb that is called Hydrogen bomb. He wanted the project to be focused on his bomb. But Oppenheimer disagreed because he wanted to be focused on the main and initial job. Edward Teller became Oppenheimer’s enemy. He said that Oppenheimer disagreed to build a Hydrogen bomb because he was an agent of the Soviet Union, and so what he did was based on the orders he received from there. This caused the FBI to take action. They spent 30 years trying to prove that Robert Oppenheimer was a Soviet Union agent, but they failed. That literally means that Oppenheimer was loyal and he never betrayed his country.

However, accusations like that caused Robert Oppenheimer to develop phases of deep depression, while he was also unhappy about the usage of his nuclear bomb against Japan and also the consequences that such a weapon could have for the world, although he knew that The United States didn’t have any other choice but using nuclear bombs to stop Japan.

Edward Teller
Edward Teller

As a result, a genius that could have a long life and help people of the world to have a better understanding of their lives and the universe, died at the age of 62, while Edward Teller lived for 95 years!!!

Robert Oppenheimer suffered from deep depression. Based on the tremendous pressure of the The Manhattan Project and the following army projects, he turned into a chain smoker who was always smoking. You could never see him without a cigarette between his lips. He died because of throat cancer in 1967.

Whoever you are, you must protect yourself. Against what?

  • Enemies
  • Illnesses
  • Poverty
  • Disappointment
  • Depression
  • Feeling guilty
  • Weakness

And against anything that affects your normal life. You should not allow anything to make you lose your balance. Obviously, having a very high IQ doesn’t help in this case, as I also explained this in Nicola Tesla’s story. Keep in mind that if you lose your balance, you will lose everything.

Let’s keep the balance and then work hard…

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By Vahid Chaychi

To learn more about me, please visit the about page.

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