J. Robert Oppenheimer: A Theoretical Physicist & Professor

J. Robert Oppenheimer, a theoretical physicist, and professor of physics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is one of those credited as being the “father of the atomic bomb” for their involvement in the Manhattan Project.

The first nuclear weapon was successfully tested at the Trinity Test in New Mexico on July 16, 1945. In August of 1945, the weapons were used in the nuclear bombardment of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

After the Second World War, Oppenheimer became chairman of the Atomic Energy Board. He criticized the production of the atomic bomb and held stands on defense-related topics. During the Second Red Scare, he had relationships with individuals and groups associated with the Communist Party.

J. Robert Oppenheimer During Young Age
J. Robert Oppenheimer During Young Age

As a science teacher and advocate, he is remembered as the founding father of the American School of Theoretical Physics. It is credited with the invention of the Born–Oppenheimer approximation for molecular wave functions and the first prediction of quantum tunnelling.

He has made significant contributions to the modern theories of neutron stars and black holes, quantum mechanics, quantum field theory, and cosmic ray interactions. He was Head of the Center for Advanced Studies in Princeton, New Jersey.

Quick Facts of J. Robert Oppenheimer

Full Name

Julius Robert Oppenheimer

Nick Name

Father of the Atomic Bomb


Birth Date

April 22, 1904

Age of Death

62 years old (1904 – 1967)



Birth Place

New York, United States

Father’s Name

Julius S. Oppenheimer

Mother’s Name

Ella Friedman


Frank Oppenheimer


Atomic Bomb




American and German




Ethical Culture Fieldston School

Harvard University

Christ’s College Cambridge

University of Cambridge

University of Gottingen


Enrico Fermi Award




Theoretical Physicist

Nuclear Physicist

Marital Status



Katherine “Kitty” Puening

Net Worth


Social Media


Also Check: Jacques Cousteau: Early Life, Career, Personal Life and Death>>

Early Life of J. Robert Oppenheimer

Robert Oppenheimer was born on April 22, 1904, in New York City. He was the son of a prosperous Jewish cloth importer and painter. His parents were non-Ashkenazi Jews. Their art portfolio featured sculptures by Pablo Picasso and Édouard Vuillard and at least three paintings by Vincent van Gogh. Robert had a younger sibling, Frank, who had also been a physicist.

Oppenheimer was educated at the Preparatory School of Alcuin and the School of Ethical Culture. He is a knowledgeable academic, specialized in literature, mineralogy, and chemistry, both in English and French.


One year after graduation, he entered Harvard College at the age of 18, when he was struck by colitis while on a family summer holiday in Joachimstal. His father took him to New Mexico to help him recover, where he fell in love with horseback riding and the United States of America.

Oppenheimer majored in chemistry, but Harvard also allowed science students to study history, literature, and mathematics or philosophy. By taking six classes per year, he compensated for his late start and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, the undergraduate honour society. Within three years, he graduated summa cum laude.

J. Robert Oppenheimer Educating Others
J. Robert Oppenheimer Educating Others

In 1924, Oppenheimer wrote to Ernest Rutherford asking the Cavendish Laboratory for permission to operate. Rutherford was unimpressed, and in the expectation of landing another bid, he went to Cambridge. In 1926, he left Cambridge to study under Max Born at the University of Göttingen.

He made acquaintances, including Werner Heisenberg, Pascual Jordan, and Wolfgang Pauli, who went on to great success. In March of 1927, at the age of 23, he got his Doctor of Philosophy degree. In Göttingen, Oppenheimer wrote more than a dozen papers. He and Born have written a well-known paper on the

Career life of J. Robert Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer has been given a U.S. National Research Council fellowship in September 1927 to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). He formed a close relationship with Linus Pauling at Caltech, and they plotted a joint assault on the essence of the chemical bond.

When Pauling started to accuse Oppenheimer of being too close to his wife, Ava Helen Pauling, their partnership ended. He later asked Pauling to become head of the Manhattan Project’s Chemistry Division, but Pauling declined, claiming that he was a pacifist.

He attended the Paul Ehrenfest Institute at the University of Leiden, the Netherlands, in the autumn of 1928, where, although having no familiarity with the language, he was fascinated by lectures in Dutch.

Also Check: Hedy Lamarr: Early Life, Career, Films and Death>>

He was also diagnosed with a moderate case of tuberculosis and spent several weeks with his brother at a New Mexico ranch. Oppenheimer’s “two great loves” were physicists and desert land. In private contact, Oppenheimer saw him as mesmerizing yet also frigid in more public contexts.

Berkeley elevated him to full professor at a salary of $3,300 a year in 1936 (equivalent to $61,000 in 2019) In exchange; he was asked to limit his teaching at Caltech, so an agreement was reached whereby Berkeley released him for six weeks each year, adequate to teach Cal tech for one term.

He collaborated closely with experimental physicist Ernest O. Lawrence, recipient of the Nobel Prize, and his cyclotron pioneers, helping them understand the data generated by their machines at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Robert’s Discoveries

Many later discoveries, which involve the electron, meson, and neutron star, were predicted by his study. For hydrogen and X-rays, he measured the photoelectric effect, acquiring the absorption coefficient at the K-edge. His measurements were consistent with X-ray sun absorption observations, but not with helium.

Relativistic Theory of the Photoelectric Effect” Relativistic Theory of the Photoelectric Effect. He disputed the claim of Dirac that two of the hydrogen atom’s energy levels had the same energy. Oppenheimer experimented under bombardment by deuterons on measurements of artificial radioactivity.

J. Robert Oppenheimer Delivering Speech
J. Robert Oppenheimer Delivering Speech

He and his pupil, Melba Phillips, created a hypothesis in 1935 that is still in use today. Oppenheimer wrote a paper in 1930 which effectively predicted the presence of the positron. Two years later, the positron was discovered by Carl David Anderson, for which he received the 1936 Nobel Prize in Physics.

He became involved in astrophysics in the late 1930s, contributing to a series of papers about white dwarfs and black holes. In the rejuvenation of astrophysical science in the U.S. in the 1950s, such papers were crucial influences.

To illustrate physical ideas, he was fond of using elegant, if incredibly complicated, mathematical methods. “His physics was good,” said Snyder, his classmate, “but his arithmetic awful. His arithmetic was awful” Richard Tolman was acquainted with him.

Robert’s Publications

Oppenheimer published only five research articles during World War II. In 1946, 1951, and 1967, he was nominated for the Nobel Award for physics but never won. Observers also indicated that he would have received a Nobel Prize if he had lived long enough to see his predictions substantiated by experiment.

His gravitational collapse dissertation is considered his most influential achievement, involving neutron stars and black holes. He studied Sanskrit in 1933 and at Berkeley, he met the Indologist, Arthur W. Ryder. In the original Sanskrit, he read the Bhagavad Gita and cited it as one of the books that influenced his life philosophy the most.

In 1934, to help German physicists escaping from Nazi Germany, Oppenheimer earmarked three percent of his annual income. He and some of his teachers, including Melba Phillips and Bob Serber, attended a rally for longshoremen during the 1934 West Coast Waterfront Strike. He repeatedly tried to get a Berkeley place for Serber, but Birge stopped him, believing that “one Jew in the department was enough”

Oppenheimer’s mother died in 1931, and he moved to California to be closer to his father. Like many other young intellectuals in the 1930s, he supported social reforms that were later alleged to be communist ideas.

Oppenheimer never openly joined the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), though he did pass money to liberal causes by way of acquaintances who were alleged to have been Party members. He donated to many progressive causes later branded as left-wing during the McCarthy era.

In 1936 he also became involved with Jean Tatlock, the daughter of a Berkeley literature professor and a student at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Also Check: Galileo Galilei: Early Life, Career, Invention and Death>>

Personal Life and Relationships

 In 1939 he met Katherine Peening, a radical Berkeley student and former Communist Party member. In 1940 she married Richard Harrison, a physician, and medical researcher, but later divorced him when she found out she was pregnant.

Oppenheimer continued his affair with Jean Tatlock after his marriage. Because of her connections, Tatlock’s Communist associations became a concern in his security clearance hearings. In the 1930s or 1940s, several of his nearest friends became involved in the Communist Party.

J. Robert Oppenheimer Receiving Award
J. Robert Oppenheimer Receiving Award

There is some debate about whether he was technically a party member. He was under scrutiny for his former left-wing connections by both the FBI and the Manhattan Project’s internal surveillance arm during the production of the atomic bomb.

In 1954, he testified that he was connected to the Communist movement, but denied being a part of it. As a fellow traveler, he described himself as someone who identifies with many of Communism’s objectives, but without being able to obey instructions from any apparatus of the Communist Party blindly.

Oppenheimer spent the night in his L.A. flat. Tatlock, who, in 1944, committed suicide. Oppenheimer volunteered in August 1943 because, on behalf of the Soviet Union, George Eltenton had asked three men at Los Alamos for nuclear secrets. Brigadier General Leslie R. Groves, Jr., the Manhattan Project’s director, felt this questionable activity was too critical for Oppenheimer to be ousted.

Net worth of J. Robert Oppenheimer

We really don’t have exact data, but we can assume that he was a multi-million Dollars person in that era.


Being a chain smoker he was diagnosed with throat cancer in late 1965. On February 15, 1967, Oppenheimer fell into a coma. On February 18, 1967, he died in Princeton, New Jersey at the age of 62.

Robert Oppenheimer Quotes

  • In battle, in the forest, at the precipice in the mountains, On the dark great sea, in the midst of javelins and arrows, In sleep, in confusion, in the depths of shame, The good deeds a man has done before defend him.
  • In some sort of crude sense, which no vulgarity, no humor, no overstatement can quite extinguish, the physicists have known sin; and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose.
  • It is a profound and necessary truth that the deep things in science are not found because they are useful; they are found because it was possible to find them.
  • When we deny the EVIL within ourselves, we dehumanize ourselves, and we deprive ourselves not only of our own destiny but of any possibility of dealing with the EVIL of others.
  • It is perfectly obvious that the whole world is going to hell. The only possible chance that it might not is that we do not attempt to prevent it from doing so.
  • Knowledge cannot be pursued without morality.
  • We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent.


1. Who was J. Robert Oppenheimer?

J. Robert Oppenheimer was an American theoretical physicist and professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley.

2. How did J. Robert Oppenheimer die?

On February 18, 1967, Robert died due to inoperable cancer.

3. What did J. Robert Oppenheimer invent?

J. Robert Oppenheimer invented “Atomic Bomb”.

4. What did J. Robert Oppenheimer do in world war 2?

After the 1939 invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany, Oppenheimer was selected to administer a laboratory to carry out the Manhattan Project, the program that developed the first nuclear weapon during World War II.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Next Post

Clarence Birdseye: Inventor, Naturalist & an Entrepreneur

Thu Mar 4 , 2021
Clarence Birdseye was born on December 9th, 1886. Lives have been very busy these days, and different technologies are developed to simplify our lives. Similarly, frozen foods are in high demand, preferred by employers who stay alone and students staying in dormitories. Birdseye was an American inventor, entrepreneur, and naturalist […]
Clarence Birdseye