A genius Einstein thought was a fool: the main facts about Robert Oppenheimer, who became the "destroyer of worlds"

Dmytro IvancheskulLife
Oppenheimer is known as the father of the atomic bomb. Source: National Gallery of Victoria/Getty/OBOZREVATEL collage

Robert Oppenheimer is an American theoretical physicist who is widely known as the father of the atomic bomb. It was he who led the development of this terrible weapon during the so-called Manhattan Project. The bomb he created was so powerful and ominous that Oppenheimer later said that when he looked at its explosion he recalled lines from the Bhagavad Gita Hindu scripture: "Now I have become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

It was Oppenheimer's invention which was thought to end all wars that was dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nearly 200,000 people died as a result of the bombing.

However, it should be recognized that there were other moments in the biography of the physicist which do not cause such horror. OBOZREVATEL tells the facts about Robert Oppenheimer.

Predicted the existence of black holes

By his character, Oppenheimer was a very inquisitive person, so when he was interested in something, he began to continuously explore the subject, including the astrophysics.

He became so fascinated with the subject that he eventually wrote several theoretical papers on objects that had not even been discovered yet, but that Oppenheimer believed should exist.

His boldest prediction was the idea that in the far depths of space there should exist "dying stars whose gravitational pull exceeds their energy production." Such an idea of his appeared in 1939 in a paper "On Continuous Gravitational Compression," which the physicist co-authored with his student Gartland Snyder.

It was only later when the existence of black holes was discovered and physicists realized what the scientist had in mind.

A fool and a communist

Oppenheimer was a genius by allmeans. However, he had problems with emotional immaturity that were evident even despite his vast knowledge. He was also politically naive.

It was his commitment to communist ideas (the physicist never joined the party) that led to the fact that Oppenheimer could be restricted with the access to classified information.

After meeting Albert Einstein, he complained to him about the difficult situation he found himself in. Einstein advised his colleague to simply walk away and not force himself into a grueling investigation and trial by the Atomic Energy Commission.

Oppenheimer replied that he would be of more use from within the Washington establishment than from outside. Thus he decided to stay and fight.

Einstein, after listening to his arguments, went into his office and, nodding at Oppenheimer, said to his secretary, "here comes the nar (fool for Yiddish)."

Oppenheimer would later lose the battle and it would affect his entire life.

Tried to poison his professor

As a student at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, England, Oppenheimer was going through a difficult time and, due to emotional problems and feelings of isolation, was even in a state of deep depression.

The situation was not improved by his supervisor Patrick Maynard Stewart Blackett, a gifted experimental physicist. Blackett managed everything so easily that Oppenheimer frankly envied him and tried to win his approval.

When all of Oppenheimer's actions were in vain, he, according to longtime friend Francis Fergusson, treated the apple with harmful chemicals and left it on Blackett's desk. Fortunately, the science advisor never touched the apple or it was simply put away by someone. No evidence of this story exists other than Fergusson's words.

A whiner

Oppenheimer was very persuasive and confident when he had to work or speak in a relaxed environment, but he immediately broke down if he felt even little pressure.

Two months after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Oppenheimer met with U.S. President Harry Truman to express concern about a possible future nuclear war with the USSR. The president listened to the physicist and simply brushed him off, saying that the Soviet Union could never build an atomic bomb.

Oppenheimer was outraged by such a statement. He clasped his hands together and quietly said: "Mr. President, I feel I have blood on my hands."

Truman was so infuriated by this physicist's behavior that he immediately ended the meeting by stating that he himself had "twice as much blood" on his hands, but there was no point in going around complaining about it. Truman subsequently said sharply to his Secretary of State Dean Acheson, "I don't want to see that son of a b*tch in this office again."

Evidence of this is contained in the president's correspondence with Acheson, where he says the father of the atomic bomb was a "whiny scientist."

A student favorite

Although Oppenheimer made a mixed impression on people in his circle, the students to whom he taught physics were simply fascinated by his lecturing skills. His rhetorical ability and erudition, which went far beyond physics, made him a fascinating speaker.

Oppenheimer was so gifted at crafting beautiful sentences (even improvised ones) that he charmed the students. It got to the point where some of them began dressing like their idol, wearing gray suit, clunky black shoes and even smoking his favorite cigarettes.

He spoke six languages, notably ancient Sanskrit

Oppenheimer was notable for his great ability to absorb information. Not surprisingly, he spoke six languages: Greek, Latin, French, German, Dutch (which he learned in six weeks for a lecture in the Netherlands) and the ancient Indian language Sanskrit.

He gave a lecture at the New York Mineralogical Club at 12

Young Robert developed a thirst for geology at the age of 7. He then became fascinated with crystals, fanatically collecting minerals. A little while later, he even started writing letters on a typewriter to local geologists. The boy's level of knowledge impressed one of the geologists so much that he invited Oppenheimer to give a lecture at the New York Mineralogical Club, not realizing he was inviting a child.

When the boy came to give the lecture, he was greeted with loud laughter, but was helped to speak by bringing a wooden box so that he could reach the podium.

Oppenheimer gave such an astounding speech that the hall erupted in applause.

Named the first atomic bomb test in honor of his dead mistress

Oppenheimer met Jean Tatlock in 1936 and, despite the fact that he was already married to Katharine Puening, had an affair with a new girlfriend. In this case, one love did not interfere with the other, so the relationship with Tatlock continued until her death in 1944 from a drug overdose. It is believed that she committed suicide because of constant bouts of depression.

Interestingly, it was Tatlock who got the physicist interested in communist ideas and even persuaded him to donate to the party's fund to fight poverty in the US. Subsequently, the FBI began spying on Oppenheimer and tapping his phone conversations.

In honor of one of her favorite poems, Oppenheimer assigned the codename "Trinity" to the first test of the atomic bomb.

Earlier OBOZREVATEL shared about at what distance it is possible to survive a nuclear explosion.

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