The founding founder of the American School of Theoretical Physics, J. Robert Oppenheimer, is affectionately remembered. The ‘Born-Oppenheimer approximation,’ the discovery of nuclear weapons, and his work on electrons and positrons are among his notable contributions to science. He was a gifted youngster from an early age, and he completed his education in a short period of time. Despite this, he arrived at Harvard a year late, at the age of eighteen, due to colitis-related illness. Oppenheimer, a determined guy, set out to make up for his lost years by enrolling in six classes per term at college and making the most of his time. He was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa fraternity, where he was inspired by Percy Bridgman’s thermodynamics lectures, which proved to be a career turning point. He was the first physicist to recognize the existence of black holes, but he lacked the patience to see his hypothesis through. If Oppenheimer had lived and had the patience to test his hypothesis with an experiment, he would have won a Nobel Prize for his work on black holes and neutrons, according to Luis Alvarez, a Nobel physicist. He was a three-time Nobel Laureate who supported Leftist Communities in politics and was a Sanskrit language enthusiast.
Childhood and Adolescence
Julius Robert Oppenheimer was born in New York City to Julius Oppenheimer, a wealthy textile importer, and Ella Friedman, an artist. His parents were German-Jewish immigrants to the United States in 1888.
He began his education at Alcuin Preparatory School before enrolling at the Ethical Culture Society School in 1911. It was here that he completed his education in a short period of time and developed a strong interest in the topic of mineralogy.’
He enrolled at Harvard College in 1922 to study chemistry, but eventually expanded his studies to include literature, history, mathematics, and theoretical and experimental physics. In 1925, he received his bachelor’s degree from the institution.
He enrolled at Christ’s College, Cambridge University, and worked at the Cavendish Laboratory, where he was quickly hired by J.J Thomson, a well-known British physicist who agreed to hire him on the condition that he finish a basic laboratory course.
He enrolled at the University of Gottingen in 1926 and studied under Max Born. The university was one of the leading institutes in the field of theoretical physics at the time, and it was here that he met a number of prominent people, including Enrico Fermi and Wolfgang Pauli.
During his stint at the institution, he wrote more than a dozen physics publications and made groundbreaking contributions to quantum mechanics.
His thesis on the ‘Born-Oppenheimer Approximation’ became a well-known dissertation in the field of molecular science. In 1927, he eventually received his Doctor of Philosophy degree.
The Career of Robert
The United States National Research Council awarded him a fellowship for research at Harvard University and the California Institute of Technology in 1927.
In 1928, he offered lectures at the University of Leiden before traveling to Zurich to work on quantum physics and the continuous spectrum with his friend Wolfgang Pauli.
In 1929, he accepted an associate professorship at the University of California, Berkeley, which he held for the following two decades.
He began actively participating in politics in 1934, in addition to being a physicist. He began contributing a portion of his pay to aid German physicists fleeing Nazi Germany, as well as supporting social reforms that were later labeled as “communist endeavors.”
In 1935, he collaborated with physicist Melba Philips to develop the ‘Oppenheimer-Phillips process,’ which is still in use today.
He was asked to reduce his position at Caltech University when he was appointed as a full-time professor at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 1936. However, an arrangement was reached under which Oppenheimer would be released for six weeks, or one semester, in order to teach at Caltech.
He published a paper called ‘On Continued Gravitational Attraction’ in 1939, which anticipated the existence of black holes. The paper, on the other hand, lacked adequate clarity.
He was a member of the ‘Manhattan Project’ in 1942, which was tasked with constructing the first atomic weapons during WWII.
In 1947, he was unanimously chosen as head of the Atomic Energy Commission’s General Advisory Committee. As chairman, he campaigned zealously for global arms control and financial support for basic science projects.
He was also the Director of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, New Jersey, from 1947 to 1950. In the same year, he and a group of physicists created the concept of renormalization and worked on quantum electrodynamics of elementary particles.
J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI had been keeping a close eye on Oppenheimer since before World War II, believing he was linked to Communist organizations.
In front of the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1949, he admitted to working closely with the Communist Party in the 1930s, putting him in hot water for the next four years.
He founded the World Academy of Art and Science in 1960 alongside Bertrand Russell, Albert Einstein, and Joseph Rotblat, near the end of his life.
His Major Projects
He produced a thesis dissertation on the ‘Born-Oppenheimer Approximation’ at the University of Gottingen, which became a noteworthy publication in the study of quantum chemistry and expounds on the wavefunction of molecules. This is regarded as one of his early masterpieces.
His study on the ‘Oppenheimer-Philips process’ introduced a new dimension to nuclear fusion research that is still relevant today.
In nuclear physics, spectroscopy, astrophysics, and quantum field theory, he made significant contributions. He was the first to recognize the existence of black holes in physics.
He contributed significantly to the theory of cosmic ray showers, which led to the description of quantum tunneling.
Achievements & Awards
For his presentation on mineralogy at the age of twelve, he was made an honorary member of the New York Mineralogical Club.
In 1946, he received the ‘Medal of Merit for his work as director of Los Alamos.
In 1963, he received the Enrico Fermi Award for his contributions during a political crisis.
Personal History and Legacy
In 1936, he had an affair with Jean Tatlock, a Stanford University School of Medicine student and the daughter of a Berkeley literature professor.
He met Katherine Peening Harrison, a Berkeley biologist who had been married three times before. On November 1, 1940, Oppenheimer married her, and the couple had two children, Peter and Katherine.
He was diagnosed with throat cancer and, despite receiving successful chemotherapy, slipped into a coma and died.
An asteroid named ‘67085 Oppenheimer’ was named after him, as was a lunar crater named ‘Oppenheimer.’
Estimated Net worth
J. is one of the wealthiest physicists and one of the most well-known. J. Robert Oppenheimer has an estimated net worth of $8 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider
Francis Ferguson, a theoretical physicist, recalled that this brilliant physicist had once placed an apple drenched in toxic chemicals on his tutor Patrick Blackett’s desk.
This well-known theoretical physicist suffered from severe psychiatric issues and was a chain smoker who frequently skipped meals while absorbed in serious study.