The life story of J. Robert Oppenheimer has been told in several venues, but none have come close to capturing the complexity of the man. The new movie Oppenheimer from Chris Nolan opens this weekend in another attempt. The real Oppenheimer was a superbly intelligent and educated physicist, a nerd from an early age, who answered the call when the US military needed all the superbly intelligent physicists it could round up. Those physicists included Edward Teller, Leo Szilard, Enrico Fermi, Otto Frisch, Niels Bohr, Felix Bloch, James Franck, and the young Richard Feynman. Amid that distinguished team, Oppenheimer was appointed head of the secret laboratory at Los Alamos, a role he surprisingly excelled in.
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Oppenheimer put his heart and soul into his work on the atomic bomb, but that was not all he was. He also had relationships with at least two women who belonged to the Communist Party. And the ethics of the bomb his team created weren’t lost on the physicist. Read about the real J. Robert Oppenheimer before you see the movie this weekend, at Smithsonian.
(Image credit: Ed Westcott, U.S. Government photographer)