Self Help

American Prometheus - Kai Bird

Author Photo

Matheus Puppe

· 165 min read

Here is a summary of the table of contents and preface:

The book begins with a preface describing a pivotal moment in December 1953 when Robert Oppenheimer was suddenly informed that he was being declared a security risk and faced losing his government advisory positions. The preface outlines the charges against him and his reaction, including drafting a letter defending himself against the accusations.

The table of contents shows the book is structured in 5 parts, with 40 chapters total. Part One covers Oppenheimer’s early life, education at Harvard, time in Europe, and early teaching career. Part Two focuses on his left-wing political activities in the 1930s and work on the atomic bomb project during WWII. Part Three examines his postwar celebrity status and resistance to building the hydrogen bomb. Part Four looks at his turbulent personal life and concerns over nuclear proliferation. Part Five details the security hearings that ultimately revoked his security clearance in 1954.

  • In February 1967, 600 friends and colleagues gathered to mourn the death of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb” who had led the Manhattan Project.

  • Attendees included renowned scientists like Nobel laureates, politicians, generals, and acquaintances who knew Oppenheimer as a brilliant physicist and teacher.

  • In 1954, Oppenheimer had been declared a security risk by the Eisenhower administration, making him a prominent victim of the anticommunist crusade. This had tarnished his reputation despite his previous status as a national hero.

  • The tribute reflected Oppenheimer’s complex legacy - his seminal contributions to physics and role in developing the atomic bomb, but also the later political persecution that cut short his career in public service.

  • Speakers remembered Oppenheimer as a gifted scientist and humanist who tried to raise awareness about the dangers of nuclear weapons, even as he was silenced for his efforts. His life embodied both the great scientific triumphs and grave ethical challenges of the nuclear age.

  • Robert Oppenheimer was born in 1904 into a family of German Jewish immigrants who were part of the Ethical Culture movement, which valued rationalism, science, and social justice over religion.

  • His father, Julius Oppenheimer, immigrated to the U.S. in 1888 from Germany to work in his cousins’ textile importing business. Julius worked his way up to become a partner despite having no money or English skills when he arrived.

  • Julius married Ella Friedman, a painter and Ethical Culture adherent, in 1899. Ella encouraged Robert’s interest in science from a young age.

  • Robert grew up in a prosperous household in New York City. He was a precocious child who read voraciously and was introduced to minerals by his grandfather at age 6.

  • Robert began studying science at Ethical Culture School, where he was recognized as a brilliant student. He entered Harvard at age 18 and studied chemistry and physics.

  • Robert was influenced by the work of pioneering physicists like Einstein, Curie, and Planck who were transforming understandings of space, time and the nature of the atom.

  • This new physics represented a revolutionary shift much like the ongoing technological innovations that were rapidly changing American life in the early 1900s. Scientists were celebrated as heroes ushering in a new rational era.

  • Julius Oppenheimer was a German immigrant who became a successful textile importer in New York City by the early 1900s. He married Ella Friedman, an accomplished artist with a congenitally deformed hand, in 1903.

  • Their first son Robert was born in 1904 and doted on by his wealthy parents. The family lived in an elegant apartment on the Upper West Side with fine European furnishings and an impressive art collection.

  • Ella ran the household to very high standards. She was protective and intense with Robert, encouraging him to paint while monitoring his health obsessively.

  • Julius was gregarious and loved conversation, art and music. Ella was more emotionally reserved and disapproved of Julius’ businessman friends.

  • Robert grew up torn between his parents’ contrasting personalities. He worshipped his delicate, demanding mother but sometimes felt ashamed of his louder, spontaneous father.

  • Robert was a solitary, introspective child who spent his early years enveloped in his mother’s embrace. Their relationship was always very close and deeply affected Robert’s childhood.

  • Robert Oppenheimer was born in 1904 to Julius and Ella Oppenheimer, wealthy German Jewish immigrants living in New York City. As a child, Robert was recognized as a genius and given many opportunities to nurture his interests, including minerals, poetry, architecture, and science.

  • Robert’s grandfather Benjamin made a big impression during visits to Germany, gifting Robert minerals and architecture books. Back in New York, Julius supported Robert’s rock collecting hobby, filling their apartment with labeled samples.

  • At age 12, Robert was nominated for membership in a mineralogy club and gave a lecture to the amused adults. His parents were very encouraging of his adult intellectual pursuits.

  • Robert was enrolled at the Ethical Culture School, founded by Felix Adler to promote humanitarianism and social action over religious creed. This fit the assimiliationist attitudes of wealthy German Jews like the Oppenheimers.

  • Adler had broken from his father’s Reform Judaism temple to start Ethical Culture, influenced by developments in Germany that rejected Jewish exclusivity and emphasized social responsibility.

  • Ethical Culture arose amid rising anti-Semitism in late 19th century America, providing a vehicle for upper-class Jews to maintain their status while downplaying religious identity.

Here are the key points from the passage:

  • Felix Adler, founder of the Ethical Culture Society, believed Jews should assimilate into American society while retaining their ethical/moral identity. He rejected Jewish nationalism and Zionism.

  • Adler founded the Workingman’s School in 1880 to provide free education to working-class children. It evolved into the Ethical Culture School, known for progressive education.

  • Robert Oppenheimer attended the school from 1911. He was influenced by its ethos of using education to reform society.

  • John Lovejoy Elliott taught Oppenheimer ethics. He exposed students to debates on contemporary issues like race relations, war, and economic inequality. This shaped Oppenheimer’s social/political outlook.

  • Oppenheimer had a sheltered upbringing which left him unprepared for life’s cruelties. As a boy at summer camp he was bullied for being different, but refused to fight back, showing inner toughness.

The passage traces how Oppenheimer’s progressive schooling and ethical education influenced his values and worldview as a socially-engaged intellectual. It also notes his protected childhood which shaped his stoic personality.

  • Robert Oppenheimer was a precocious, awkward, and intellectually gifted student at the progressive Ethical Culture School in New York City. He excelled academically across many subjects and graduated as valedictorian.

  • He was somewhat socially isolated, with only one real friend, Francis Fergusson. He was seen by peers as arrogant about his intellect.

  • Robert became enthralled with science, especially physics and chemistry, with the encouragement of inspiring teachers like Augustus Klock. This set him on the path to becoming a scientist.

  • Sailing was one of Robert’s main hobbies and passions. He loved taking risky, daring voyages out into stormy seas, to the concern of his parents. This revealed both his arrogance and inner resilience.

  • The sheltered, nurturing environment of Ethical Culture allowed Robert to thrive academically while prolonging his social immaturity.

  • His teacher Herbert Winslow Smith served as a mentor, recognizing Robert’s talents in both science and writing. Smith helped guide him through adolescence.

  • In 1921, Julius and Ella took their sons Robert and Frank to Germany for the summer. Robert went on a prospecting field trip alone to Joachimsthal and came back with dysentery, forcing him to postpone Harvard.

  • In 1922, Robert went on a trip to the Southwest with his teacher Herbert Smith. He visited New Mexico, where he was attracted to Katherine Page, who taught him horseback riding. Smith sensed Robert had issues with his Jewish identity and oedipal feelings towards his parents.

  • Robert enjoyed being accepted by Katherine Page and her aristocratic hidalgo friends in New Mexico. Smith felt this was an important time for Robert’s self-confidence.

  • Robert visited the Los Alamos Ranch School, set in the beautiful but rugged Pajarito Plateau. He admired the setting, so different from his urban childhood. This early introduction to Los Alamos made an impression on Robert.

  • Robert Oppenheimer enrolled at Harvard in 1922 and was assigned a single room. He was an oddly handsome 19-year-old who gave an impression of eccentricity and introversion.

  • At Harvard, his intellect thrived but his social development floundered. He had few close friends besides Francis Fergusson and Paul Horgan from his Ethical Culture days. He made a new friend, Jeffries Wyman, but their relationship was intellectual.

  • In his sophomore year, he roomed with Frederick Bernheim, who found living with Robert’s eccentricities and moods to be a strain. William Boyd also befriended Robert but they had little in common besides science.

  • Robert took a wide variety of courses initially before settling on chemistry as a major. He studied intensely, determined to graduate in 3 years, but hid the extent of his studying. His poetry reflected themes of loneliness.

  • The Harvard environment did not provide the nurturing Robert had experienced at Ethical Culture. He retreated into introversion and eccentricity, giving the impression of being melancholy and socially maladjusted.

Here is a summary of the key points in the passage:

  • Robert Oppenheimer enrolled at Harvard in 1922, where the political culture was quite conservative at the time. The university imposed quotas to limit Jewish students, and intermarriage between Jews and Christians was frowned upon.

  • Oppenheimer joined the liberal Student Liberal Club in 1922, though he was not very impressed with it. He helped edit a short-lived student journal called The Gad-fly.

  • Oppenheimer initially majored in chemistry but soon switched to physics, studying under Percy Bridgman. He attended lectures by Niels Bohr and was deeply impressed. His approach to physics was eclectic and he felt his math skills were lacking.

  • Oppenheimer maintained a correspondence with his former teacher Herbert Smith. He described his activities at Harvard with irony and dark wit, mentioning he suffered from periodic bouts of depression.

  • His friend Paul Horgan viewed Oppenheimer as a rare polymath. Oppenheimer himself felt discontent and lacked sensitivity towards others during this period of his life.

  • Oppenheimer had powerful but unfulfilled sexual desires as a young man, as evidenced by some erotic poetry he wrote. He contemplated a woman reading Spinoza from afar but did not speak to her.

  • He often turned to his former teacher Herbert Smith for guidance when distressed. Smith reassured him that his feelings were not unusual.

  • Oppenheimer graduated summa cum laude from Harvard in 1925 with a degree in chemistry. He wanted to study physics under Ernest Rutherford at Cambridge, but Rutherford rejected him, finding his credentials peculiar.

  • That summer, Oppenheimer took his parents to New Mexico and introduced them to Los Pinos ranch. He went on long horseback rides in the mountains with his friend Paul Horgan. On one ride, they got caught in a thunderstorm but made it safely back to the ranch.

  • Oppenheimer found an uncharted lake in the mountains which he named Lake Katherine after the ranch owner. He also smoked his first tobacco on these rides, starting a lifelong habit.

Based on the summary, here are the key points about J.J. Thomson, Oppenheimer’s predecessor as director of the Cavendish Laboratory:

  • Thomson was 69 years old in 1925, when Oppenheimer arrived at Cavendish. He had won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1906 for discovering the electron.

  • By 1925, Thomson was past his prime as an active research physicist. In 1919, he had resigned his administrative responsibilities at Cavendish.

  • In 1925, Thomson came into the lab only sporadically and tutored just a few students.

  • Despite Thomson being past his research prime, Oppenheimer was greatly relieved that Thomson agreed to supervise his studies at Cavendish.

  • Oppenheimer had chosen to study physics in Europe because he felt its future - and his own future - lay there, not in the U.S.

In summary, J.J. Thomson was an elder statesman of physics and past his research prime when the young Oppenheimer arrived to study under him at Cavendish in 1925. Though no longer very active in the lab, Thomson’s stature was a draw for Oppenheimer to come to Cavendish.

It seems Robert Oppenheimer was going through a very difficult time emotionally and psychologically during his years as a student at Cambridge in the 1920s. The summary indicates:

  • He became deeply depressed and his behavior grew increasingly erratic. He felt inadequate and grew intensely jealous over others’ happiness or success.

  • He poisoned an apple with chemicals and left it for his tutor Patrick Blackett, an act of jealousy. This led to him being put on probation and mandated psychiatric sessions, which he felt were unhelpful.

  • He contemplated suicide while walking along the Brittany coast during holiday break.

  • He locked his mother in a hotel room in a fit of irrational behavior. She then insisted he see a French psychoanalyst who diagnosed “sexual frustration.”

  • He tried to strangle his friend Fergusson with a trunk strap when he learned of Fergusson’s engagement, then broke down weeping.

  • He was diagnosed with possible schizophrenia or a “moral crisis.” His emotional distress overwhelmed him, leading to violent outbursts and suicidal thoughts. His parents and friends tried to help him but could not relieve his inner turmoil.

In summary, Robert Oppenheimer experienced a period of acute psychological crisis as a student, marked by intense depression, violent behavior, and suicidal urges, which deeply concerned his family and friends. Multiple psychiatric interventions failed to resolve his inner turmoil.

Based on the passage, it seems that in the autumn of 1925, Oppenheimer placed a poisoned apple on the desk of Patrick Blackett, a rival scientist, in a fit of jealousy. His friend Francis Fergusson was aware of the incident. In early 1926, Oppenheimer went on a trip to Corsica with some friends, where he continued to reveal emotional instability and depression. He mysteriously told his friends he had to leave early because he had “done a terrible thing” and “put a poisoned apple on Blackett’s desk.” However, the timing suggests this refers to the earlier incident with Blackett, not something new.

While in Corsica, Oppenheimer experienced some sort of awakening or epiphany, perhaps catalyzed by reading a book. This was a transformative experience for him, marking a turning point from his prolonged adolescence to maturity. Though the exact nature of this experience remained deliberately mysterious to Oppenheimer’s biographers, it seems to have helped him overcome his emotional fragility. He later told an interviewer it was “love” and a “great and lasting part of his life,” but not a mere love affair. Rather, it appears to have been a mystical or transcendental experience precipitated by intense reading and reflection during his travels in Corsica.

Here is a summary of the key points about Oppenheimer’s time at Cambridge and his transition to studying theoretical physics at Göttingen:

  • Oppenheimer struggled academically and emotionally during his first year at Cambridge in 1925. He failed to make progress on experimental physics research and his mental health declined, culminating in a period of severe depression over the winter.

  • A turning point came when he read Marcel Proust’s novel In Search of Lost Time while traveling in Corsica. It resonated with his inner turmoil and helped lift his depression. Oppenheimer remained profoundly influenced by Proust’s work.

  • In 1926, Oppenheimer shifted his focus to studying the new theoretical developments in quantum mechanics by physicists like Heisenberg and Schrödinger. This align ed more with his talents and interests.

  • He met renowned physicists like Niels Bohr and Max Born who recognized his potential as a theorist. Born invited him to study at the University of Göttingen in Germany.

  • By the end of his time at Cambridge, Oppenheimer realized theoretical physics was his calling despite his struggles. He left feeling more self-aware and ready to immerse himself in the field at Göttingen.

Here is a summary of the key points in the passage:

  • In 1926, Robert Oppenheimer traveled to Göttingen, Germany, which was a center for theoretical physics at the time. He arrived just as the foundations of quantum mechanics were being laid.

  • Oppenheimer studied under Max Born and interacted with many famous physicists of the era, including James Franck, Otto Hahn, Ernst Pascual Jordan, Paul Dirac, John Von Neumann, and George Eugene Uhlenbeck. He quickly drew attention and admiration as a brilliant young physicist.

  • In contrast to his time at Harvard and Cambridge, Oppenheimer felt a sense of community and camaraderie with his fellow students at Göttingen. He began having productive conversations about physics for the first time.

  • Oppenheimer was never short of money and dressed expensively, which set him apart from his fellow students. He frequently paid for drinks and meals.

  • Outside the university, times were difficult in Germany with bitterness and anger prevalent. Oppenheimer was struck by the neurotic atmosphere which he believed fueled the later rise of the Nazis.

  • Though mostly confident and focused, Oppenheimer still occasionally suffered fainting spells and eccentric behaviors. But these decreased over time.

  • By the time he left Göttingen, Oppenheimer had made great progress in his mastery of theoretical physics and in overcoming some of his emotional issues. His reputation as a brilliant young physicist was firmly established.

  • Oppenheimer presented two important papers on quantum theory to the Cambridge Philosophical Society before arriving in Göttingen.

  • In Göttingen, Oppenheimer enthusiastically participated in seminars, often interrupting and correcting others, which annoyed fellow students. He only stopped after his peers submitted a petition.

  • Oppenheimer impressed but also sometimes offended professors like Max Born with his brilliance and bluntness. He collaborated with Born on quantum mechanics.

  • Oppenheimer became friends with physicist Paul Dirac but puzzled him with his diverse interests beyond just physics.

  • Oppenheimer was attracted to a female physics student, Charlotte Riefenstahl, and she admired his unique pigskin suitcase. His eccentric habit was to give away possessions that were admired.

  • Another suitor of Riefenstahl was Oppenheimer’s classmate Friedrich Houtermans, who was part Jewish. The two physicists were intellectual rivals.

  • In 1925-1927, there were several dramatic breakthroughs in quantum theory coming in rapid succession. Many young physicists like Heisenberg, Dirac, Pauli, and Jordan made contributions. Oppenheimer published 7 quantum theory papers while at Göttingen.

  • Quantum theory was controversial at the time. Einstein doubted it, believing God “does not play dice.” The young physicists thought Einstein’s time had passed.

  • Oppenheimer worked closely with Max Born at Göttingen. He impressed Born with his brilliance.

  • Oppenheimer met and was influenced by Heisenberg. The two had original intellects and admired each other’s work, though later became rivals during WWII.

  • Oppenheimer and Born collaborated on a paper explaining why molecules were molecules using quantum theory. This “Born-Oppenheimer approximation” was an important breakthrough still influential today.

  • Oppenheimer’s PhD thesis contained complicated quantum calculations that were difficult but correct. His examiner said Oppenheimer began asking him questions at the end of the oral exam.

  • There were bureaucratic troubles with awarding Oppenheimer his PhD at first, but he eventually obtained it in 1927 after Born intervened.

  • After completing his PhD at Göttingen, Oppenheimer returned to the United States in the summer of 1927. He took up a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard for the fall term before moving to Caltech.

  • Oppenheimer reconnected with his younger brother Frank, now 15, when he returned home. The brothers enjoyed painting and sailing together.

  • Oppenheimer pursued a romantic relationship with Charlotte Riefenstahl, whom he had met in Göttingen, escorting her around New York. However, she sensed he was emotionally unavailable and they eventually drifted apart.

  • At Harvard, Oppenheimer renewed his friendship with William Boyd, who encouraged him to submit a poem to the university’s literary magazine. The poem “Crossing” expressed his longing for New Mexico.

  • Eager for a fresh start away from Harvard, Oppenheimer moved to Pasadena to take up a teaching position at Caltech in late 1927. He enjoyed California but missed New Mexico.

  • Despite a busy teaching load, Oppenheimer published prolifically in 1928, with 6 theoretical physics papers. Concerned about a persistent cough, he headed to New Mexico that summer for the dry mountain air.

  • Robert Oppenheimer took a paternal interest in helping guide his younger brother Frank through adolescence. He gave Frank advice about not wasting time on girls and focusing on his studies.

  • In the summer of 1928, Robert and Frank went on a two-week trip to New Mexico, staying at Katherine Page’s ranch in Los Pinos. They went on horseback trips into the hills. Robert read aloud to Frank by the campfire.

  • Katherine showed them a rustic cabin for rent on Grass Mountain that they decided to lease. Robert would later purchase the ranch and cabin, which became his private haven.

  • After the New Mexico trip, the brothers had some car mishaps driving to Pasadena. Robert fractured his arm and wrist in an accident.

  • Robert was in Pasadena briefly before leaving for Europe again, having accepted teaching positions at UC Berkeley and Caltech. He wanted additional study in Europe first.

  • He studied under physicist Paul Ehrenfest at the University of Leiden but found Ehrenfest distracted and their time unproductive.

  • Robert impressed his Dutch friends by lecturing in Dutch after only 6 weeks there. They nicknamed him “Opje.” He had a brief affair with a Dutch woman named Suus.

  • Rather than going on to Copenhagen as planned, Robert decided to cut his European stay short and return to begin teaching in the U.S.

  • Robert Oppenheimer went to study under physicist Wolfgang Pauli in Zurich at the suggestion of physicist Paul Ehrenfest. Ehrenfest felt Pauli’s rigorous, detailed approach would be good for Oppenheimer’s theoretical development.

  • In Zurich, Oppenheimer also connected with physicist Isidor Rabi, who was six years older. Despite their very different backgrounds, the two formed a close friendship based on shared intellectual interests.

  • Pauli appreciated Oppenheimer’s creativity but was frustrated by his lack of rigor and attention to detail, nicknaming him the “nim-nim-nim man.” However, Pauli recognized Oppenheimer had many good ideas and imagination.

  • Rabi felt Oppenheimer was conflicted about his Jewish identity, wishing he wasn’t Jewish but unable to fully reject it either. In contrast, Rabi was comfortable being a Jew.

  • Rabi admired Oppenheimer’s brilliance but was also candid with him, not flattering him. Rabi’s honesty and straightforwardness were valued by Oppenheimer in their lifelong friendship.

  • The time in Zurich studying with renowned physicists like Pauli and befriending Rabi was intellectually formative for the young Oppenheimer.

Here is a summary of the key points from the excerpt:

  • Oppenheimer spent his summers at Perro Caliente, his ranch in the New Mexico mountains, where he would go horseback riding to rejuvenate from his intense intellectual work during the year.

  • In 1929, he invited his younger brother Frank and some friends to come help set up the ranch for the summer. They ordered furniture and supplies, and Robert brought whiskey, food, and a temperamental horse named Crisis that only he could ride.

  • Robert and Frank spent their days riding through the mountains, sometimes on trips over 200 miles long. At night, Robert would read physics books by lantern light while Frank and friends got drunk on his whiskey.

  • Robert treasured his time at the ranch with his brother, during which he mentored Frank about life, love, art, and physics. He critiqued Frank’s writing and tried to instill his philosophy of life.

  • In August 1929, Robert reluctantly left the ranch for a teaching position at UC Berkeley, where he moved into the Faculty Club. He quickly befriended colleagues and students, sharing his exotic Indonesian dish nasi goreng, but missed the ranch and his brother.

  • Oppenheimer was initially a very difficult lecturer - he spoke too fast, mumbled, and was often incomprehensible to students. He had to be pushed to slow down and communicate more clearly.

  • Even so, his lectures were performances, full of quotes and flair, though students often couldn’t follow his train of thought. He made complicated puns and invented odd phrases.

  • Many students, despite the difficulty, took his classes multiple times. He could be cruel with his intellect, but also kind and generous with his time to those who persevered.

  • Over time, Oppenheimer developed an open, interactive teaching style where he engaged all his students in discussing problems. He became a “Pied Piper” of theoretical physics, attracting top students to Berkeley.

  • Oppenheimer’s friend Lawrence was his opposite - an outgoing, supremely confident experimental physicist and builder of machines. Oppenheimer admired his vitality and bonding with Lawrence helped draw talent to Berkeley physics.

  • Though close initially, over time tensions grew between Oppenheimer and Lawrence as their careers and politics diverged. But in the early 1930s they worked together to make Berkeley a hub for physics research.

  • Ernest Lawrence conceived of a way to build smaller particle accelerators called cyclotrons that could accelerate protons to high speeds. This allowed physicists to explore the atom’s nucleus. Lawrence was adept at securing funding from wealthy benefactors and grew to head the Radiation Laboratory at Berkeley.

  • In contrast, Robert Oppenheimer took a laissez-faire attitude toward obtaining research funding. He focused on theoretical physics and made important contributions by quickly proposing theoretical solutions to problems just ahead of other researchers. This opened doors for major discoveries by others.

  • Oppenheimer’s most original work was done in the late 1930s on neutron stars, predicting their upper mass limit and continued gravitational contraction. This coincided with the dawn of the nuclear age and onset of World War II in Europe.

  • The different approaches of Lawrence and Oppenheimer epitomized the divergence between big science relying on large-scale funding and equipment versus small science driven by theoretical insights. This would eventually lead to conflict as Oppenheimer opposed the militarization of physics.

  • In 1939, Oppenheimer and Snyder published a groundbreaking paper proposing the existence of what are now called black holes. At the time it received little attention, but is now seen as a seminal contribution to 20th century physics.

  • They theorized that stars beyond a certain mass would collapse indefinitely under their own gravity after burning out, creating a singularity so dense not even light could escape. This matched what we now call a black hole.

  • Oppenheimer was deeply knowledgeable about physics, with some believing only Wolfgang Pauli knew more. But Oppenheimer never developed a comprehensive theory or won a Nobel Prize, likely due to his self-critical nature and tendency to move rapidly between ideas rather than doggedly pursue one line of inquiry.

  • Outside of physics, Oppenheimer had varied interests in art, literature, and women. He had romantic relationships and friendships with several women during his early career, viewing such connections as an essential part of living fully.

  • His brilliant but contradictory personality intrigued and sometimes frustrated his friends. He was seen as charismatic yet insecure, daring yet prone to overthink things, and capable of eloquently synthesizing complex ideas.

Here are the key points from the passage:

  • Oppenheimer’s parents Julius and Ella visited him in Pasadena in 1930. Despite the stock market crash, the Oppenheimer fortune was intact.

  • Robert’s younger brother Frank felt the Robert he knew had “vanished” during Robert’s two years in Europe. Robert tried to reassure Frank in a letter.

  • Robert dated his doctoral student Melba Phillips briefly. One evening he forgot her on a hilltop overlooking the bay, causing embarrassment for both when it made the newspapers.

  • Robert moved into a small house in the Berkeley Hills in 1934. He often invited students over for dinner and drinks.

  • Robert’s students imitated his mannerisms and smoking habits, becoming known as the “nim nim boys.” He introduced them to French poetry, classical texts, and contemporary novels.

  • Unlike most professors, Robert’s circumstances were flush due to his family’s wealth. He generously treated his students to fine restaurants and speakeasies in San Francisco.

  • As a teacher at Berkeley and Caltech, Oppenheimer mentored many students, treating them to fine dining and engaging conversations late into the night. He inspired great loyalty, with students following him between Berkeley and Caltech.

  • In 1931, Oppenheimer’s mother Ella was diagnosed with leukemia and soon passed away. This was emotionally devastating for Oppenheimer, leaving him feeling very lonely. He grew closer to his father Julius in the aftermath.

  • Oppenheimer developed an interest in Sanskrit, studying with a professor at Berkeley. He was drawn to the Bhagavad-Gita and its themes of discipline, detachment, and fulfillment of one’s duties.

  • In a 1932 letter to his brother, Oppenheimer explained his belief that discipline leads to inner serenity, freedom from worldly desires, and acceptance of one’s circumstances. He saw this as a path to peace of mind.

  • Oppenheimer was not seeking religion per se, but rather an engaged yet detached philosophy for living fully in the world as an intellectual and sensual being. The Gita and other Eastern texts seemed to resonate with this aim.

  • In the early 1930s, Oppenheimer became fascinated with Hinduism and eastern philosophy, particularly the Bhagavad Gita. He was attracted to the fatalism and notions of karma and destiny, which contrasted with the activist humanitarianism he had been taught growing up in the Ethical Culture Society.

  • Oppenheimer returned to lecturing at the University of Michigan in 1934, where he impressed Robert Serber, who later became a close friend and collaborator.

  • Serber came from a left-wing political family and married Charlotte Leof, also from a leftist household. The FBI later investigated Serber but found no evidence he was a Communist.

  • Oppenheimer invited the Serbers to visit his rustic ranch in New Mexico. The harsh conditions surprised Serber, though Oppenheimer relished the spartan lifestyle.

  • In the 1930s, Oppenheimer claimed indifference to politics and world affairs, cultivated an image as oblivious to practical matters, and didn’t vote until 1936. However, Serber later said this self-portrait of naivety was a myth.

Here are a few key points about Oppenheimer’s relationship with Jean Tatlock:

  • Jean Tatlock was a young medical student at UC Berkeley when they met in 1936. She was 22 years old at the time.

  • Oppenheimer fell deeply in love with her. His close friend Robert Serber said she was Oppenheimer’s “truest love” and he was very devoted to her.

  • Tatlock came from an affluent, upper class family in San Francisco. Her father was a professor at Stanford Medical School.

  • She was very intelligent, witty, socially conscious, and interested in left-wing politics. This aligned with Oppenheimer’s own political awakening in the 1930s.

  • Their relationship was tumultuous and sometimes troubled. Tatlock suffered from depression and unstable moods, likely due to an undiagnosed bipolar disorder.

  • Oppenheimer continued to see Tatlock on and off, even after he got married in 1940. He was unable to give her up completely.

  • Tatlock committed suicide in January 1944 at age 29, while Oppenheimer was working on the atomic bomb project. This devastated him.

So in summary, Jean Tatlock was Oppenheimer’s great lost love, whose intelligence and social consciousness appealed to him greatly, but whose psychological troubles made their relationship very difficult over the years. Her early death haunted Oppenheimer for the rest of his life.

  • Jean Tatlock was finishing her first year at Stanford Medical School when she met Robert Oppenheimer in the fall of 1936. She was an attractive, intelligent woman with literary interests who came from an academic family.

  • Oppenheimer was immediately drawn to Tatlock’s beauty, melancholy nature, and shared love of literature. Their relationship quickly became very intense.

  • Tatlock was politically left-wing, a member of the Communist Party, and active in social justice causes. This awakened Oppenheimer’s own sense of social responsibility.

  • Tatlock hoped to become a Freudian psychoanalyst. She and Oppenheimer connected over their psychological introspection and passions.

  • The relationship endured for over three years despite Tatlock’s depressive episodes. Oppenheimer was devoted to her in a way he hadn’t been with other women.

  • Their friends saw Tatlock as composed and intelligent, but also troubled. When she was depressed, it brought Oppenheimer down too.

  • Tatlock was Oppenheimer’s truest love and the woman he cared for most deeply. She inspired his social activism and left a lasting mark on him.

  • Robert Oppenheimer became interested in left-wing politics in the 1930s through his girlfriend Jean Tatlock and her circle of friends, many of whom were Communists or Communist sympathizers.

  • The Depression caused many Americans, especially in California, to reconsider their political views. The political left grew in influence.

  • Oppenheimer was introduced by Tatlock to activists like Bernard and Hannah Peters, German refugees who told him first-hand accounts of Nazi atrocities. This likely impacted his political views.

  • Oppenheimer read works by Marx, Lenin and others, educating himself on socialist and Communist ideas. Friends were surprised by his deep reading in this area.

  • Oppenheimer became involved in various left-wing groups and activities sponsored by the Communist Party in California, though he never officially joined the Party.

  • His political awakening was influenced by the times and by Tatlock’s circle, but his interests were also intellectual and philosophical in nature. He engaged seriously with Marxist ideas.

  • Haakon Chevalier and J. Robert Oppenheimer met in the mid-1930s through a teachers’ union at the University of California, Berkeley. They quickly became close friends, bonding over left-wing politics and causes.

  • Chevalier was a committed Marxist intellectual, likely a member of the Communist Party. He and Oppenheimer began hosting regular political discussion groups.

  • Jean Tatlock, Oppenheimer’s former lover, was passionate about supporting the Spanish Republic against Franco’s fascist forces in the Spanish Civil War. She pushed Oppenheimer to move from theory to action on political causes.

  • Tatlock introduced Oppenheimer to Dr. Thomas Addis, a mentor of hers who was chairing the Spanish Refugee Appeal. Addis quickly became a good friend of Oppenheimer’s as well.

  • While Tatlock cared deeply about political causes, Oppenheimer later said she was not ideologically driven like Chevalier. Her interests were more humanitarian than strictly political.

  • Through figures like Chevalier, Tatlock, and Addis, Oppenheimer became more politically engaged in left-wing causes in the late 1930s.

  • Thomas Addis was a physician-scientist who was politically active, raising funds for the British in WWI despite U.S. neutrality laws. He was pardoned by President Wilson and became a U.S. citizen.

  • Addis advocated for civil rights and progressive causes. He was impressed by the Soviet Union’s public health system after visiting in 1935. His views led the AMA to expel him.

  • Addis recruited Oppenheimer to donate to leftist causes in the 1930s, including the Communist Party. Oppenheimer gave cash donations through Addis and later Isaac “Pop” Folkoff.

  • Oppenheimer became active in several organizations considered Communist fronts, signing petitions and supporting unions and anti-fascist groups. His politics were driven partly by personal motivations like assisting refugee scientists and relatives persecuted by Nazis.

  • Oppenheimer believed the Communist Party supported worthy causes at the time like fighting fascism. He did not initially see the Party as dangerous. His last donation was in 1942 before changing his views.

  • Julius Oppenheimer, Robert’s father, died in 1937, leaving an estate of $392,602 to be divided between Robert and Frank. This provided them each with an average annual income of $10,000.

  • Robert and Frank had an extremely close relationship, though 8 years apart in age. Robert’s letters show a paternalistic, condescending attitude at times. Frank was tolerant and more easygoing than Robert.

  • Though Robert had tried to dissuade Frank from physics earlier, he came to accept and encourage Frank’s choice to pursue physics as a career. They attended a physics conference together in New Orleans.

  • However, Robert also urged Frank to explore alternatives like biology before fully committing to physics. He wanted Frank to make his own well-informed choice.

  • When Julius died, Robert immediately wrote a will leaving his entire estate to UC Berkeley for graduate fellowships, showing some ambivalence about his wealth.

  • Their political views also differed. Ernest Lawrence thought Robert’s sudden political activism in the late 1930s was distasteful and a nuisance, preferring he focus just on physics.

It seems Frank Oppenheimer joined the Communist Party in the 1930s out of concern for economic justice and a desire to oppose fascism. However, his brother Robert initially tried to discourage him from this political involvement. Some key points:

  • Frank joined the Communist Party in 1937, using the alias “Frank Folsom.” Many intellectuals aligned with communist ideas at the time due to the Great Depression and the threat of fascism.

  • Frank’s wife Jackie was more overtly political and had been involved with communist groups before they married. Robert disapproved of their relationship initially.

  • Frank saw injustice and poverty firsthand during the Depression, which pushed him to want to take action. He was inspired by the history of protest movements in America.

  • Robert tried to talk Frank out of marrying Jackie and was critical of his communist involvement. But Frank resisted his brother’s influence on this issue to assert his own independence.

  • Despite joining the Party, Frank was frustrated by the lack of real action in his local group. He seemed more interested in creating change than communist ideology.

  • The brothers remained very close personally even when they disagreed politically. Frank still relied on Robert’s support and mentorship in many ways.

In summary, Frank’s communist affiliation was driven by humanitarian concerns and a desire for social justice, rather than pure ideology. He resisted Robert’s guidance on this issue but did not fully break from his brother’s influence. Their personal bond endured despite political differences.

Based on the passage, here is a summary of the key points regarding Frank Oppenheimer’s involvement with the Communist Party:

  • Frank joined the Communist Party in 1937, against the advice of his brother Robert. He told Robert about his decision when he visited him in Berkeley. Robert was upset by Frank’s decision to join the CP.

  • Frank and his wife Jackie recruited about 10 other members to start a CP unit at Caltech. Most members kept their affiliation secret, but Frank was open about being a member.

  • Frank hosted CP meetings at his home on Tuesday evenings. Robert attended at least one of these meetings, which he later said was his only participation in a Communist Party meeting.

  • Like Robert, Frank was involved in various left-wing causes and groups, including the teachers’ union and advocacy for migrant workers. He admired the Soviet Union.

  • Though a Party member, Frank also had many non-political interests and friends. Robert felt Frank could not have been a “very hard working Communist” during those years.

  • Some perceived Frank as just following Robert’s lead on political views, but Frank actually joined the CP independently.

  • Both brothers were seen by friends as loyal to the United States, despite their leftist politics.

Based on the summary, it seems that Oppenheimer had ambiguous ties to the Communist Party in the 1930s and 1940s. Some key points:

  • Many left-leaning intellectuals were sympathetic to the Communist Party but never officially joined or openly affiliated with it. Oppenheimer appears to have been one of these.

  • The FBI took interest in Oppenheimer starting in 1941 due to his leftist ties. They opened a large file on him and considered him for detention in case of a national emergency.

  • According to Chevalier, Oppenheimer was part of an unofficial “closed unit” of the Communist Party along with Chevalier and others. They discussed politics and paid dues, but did not take orders from the Party. Oppenheimer denied formal membership.

  • Other evidence also suggests Oppenheimer was a “close sympathizer” of the Party who supported their causes and associated with members, but his actual membership status is ambiguous. He seems to have wanted to keep some distance.

  • In sum, Oppenheimer had extensive interactions with the Communist Party in the 1930s-1940s and supported their causes, but the evidence for formal membership is inconclusive, and he appears to have wanted to keep the relationship informal.

  • In August 1939, the Soviet Union signed a nonaggression pact with Nazi Germany, stunning the world and leading to the start of WWII a week later when both countries invaded Poland.

  • The pact confused and upset many left-leaning intellectuals, including some American Communists who resigned from the party. Chevalier remained loyal and defended it as a necessary strategic decision.

  • Oppenheimer did not sign an open letter defending the pact but according to Chevalier patiently explained it was not an alliance but a treaty of necessity due to the West’s appeasement at Munich.

  • Chevalier claims Oppenheimer helped edit and possibly write anti-war pamphlets for the League of American Writers and the Communist Party of California in 1939-1940, showing his continued leftist sympathies.

  • However, others like Victor Weisskopf said this period marked a decisive turning away from the Communist Party for Oppenheimer. The evidence on his membership remains contradictory and circumstantial.

Based on the summary, it seems the key points are:

  • Oppenheimer was involved with the movement for a democratic front and faced red-baiting, which had grown into a national sport.

  • Reactionary forces were being mobilized against the democratic front.

  • Oppenheimer was sensitive about how his political activities could affect the reputation of the university where he worked.

  • By the late 1930s, some friends noticed Oppenheimer becoming disillusioned with the Soviet Union, though he still believed in leftist ideals.

  • Conversations with physicist friends who had visited the Soviet Union disturbed Oppenheimer and marked a turning point, starting his break from the Communist Party.

  • Nevertheless, Oppenheimer remained committed to progressive principles and sympathies with the American left.

Here is a summary of the key points about Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal:

  • Franklin Roosevelt was elected president in 1932 during the Great Depression. He launched the New Deal, a series of programs and policies aimed at providing relief, recovery, and reform to boost the economy and help struggling Americans.

  • Robert Oppenheimer was a strong supporter of FDR and the New Deal. His friend Ernest Lawrence recalled Oppenheimer lobbying him vigorously to vote for FDR’s reelection in 1940. Oppenheimer believed FDR was vital for defending Western values against the Nazis.

  • The fall of France to the Nazis in 1940 had a big impact on Oppenheimer, displacing his previous leftist views. He now saw opposing fascism as the most urgent priority, even if it meant aligning with communists.

  • Oppenheimer’s views continued to evolve in reaction to war events. When the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, he saw it as a major blunder by Hitler that would unite communism and Western democracies against fascism.

  • Oppenheimer’s friend Haakon Chevalier portrayed him as a member of a secret Communist Party unit from 1938-1942 in his writings, but Oppenheimer denied this, saying he never formally joined the Party. He likely had some affiliation but was not under Party discipline or as committed as Chevalier believed.

In summary, Oppenheimer supported the New Deal and opposed fascism, but his political views were complex and evolved over time. He had leftist leanings but resisted formal Communist Party membership and devotion to its ideology.

  • Oppenheimer’s relationship with Jean Tatlock ended in 1939 after several years of ups and downs. Tatlock rejected his marriage proposal and ended the relationship.

  • On the rebound, Oppenheimer briefly dated several women in 1939, including Haakon Chevalier’s sister-in-law and the sister of columnist Herb Caen.

  • In August 1939, Oppenheimer met 29-year-old Katherine “Kitty” Puening Harrison at a party and they quickly became romantically involved, surprising Oppenheimer’s friends.

  • Kitty Harrison had a much different personality than Tatlock - she was vivacious and flirtatious. She claimed to have noble German ancestry but kept it quiet per her father’s wishes.

  • Kitty had a privileged but turbulent childhood and young adulthood in Germany, France and the U.S. She had a brief, failed first marriage before meeting and swiftly marrying communist activist Joe Dallet in 1934.

  • Oppenheimer’s friends were concerned about his new relationship with the scandalous Kitty, but accepted it as they could see she had “humanized him.”

  • Alvah Bessie was born in 1904 into an upper middle class family. He attended Dartmouth College but dropped out in 1926 after failing most of his courses.

  • In 1927, he was radicalized by the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti. He then transformed his life to live among the working class, becoming involved in leftist causes.

  • He joined the Communist Party in 1929 and worked as a union organizer and activist. He endured poverty, violence from police, and jail time for his activism.

  • He married Kitty West in 1934. She joined him in his activist lifestyle but eventually left in 1936, unable to cope with the poverty.

  • In 1937, Bessie went to Spain to fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. His wife Kitty tried unsuccessfully to join him there.

  • As a commissar, Bessie was unpopular for his zealotry. Eager to prove his courage, he led his battalion in an attack in October 1937 and was mortally wounded, dying heroically.

  • Joe Dallet, an American communist who fought and died in the Spanish Civil War, was married to Kitty Harrison (née Tucker). After his death, Kitty moved to the U.S. and married Dr. Richard Harrison, but it was an unhappy marriage.

  • In 1940, Kitty had an affair with Robert Oppenheimer while visiting his New Mexico ranch. She became pregnant and divorced Harrison to marry Oppenheimer.

  • Oppenheimer had known Kitty’s former husband Joe Dallet, as both were communists involved in leftist causes. Oppenheimer later reconnected with their mutual friend Steve Nelson, telling him he was marrying Kitty.

  • Though pregnant, Kitty continued her studies in biology, hoping to have a career. But she and Robert were very different people temperamentally. Their marriage would prove to be turbulent.

  • In January 1939, German chemists discovered nuclear fission by splitting the uranium atom with neutrons. Oppenheimer was initially skeptical but soon recognized the significance of the discovery.

  • Oppenheimer and other physicists realized fission could unleash enormous amounts of energy for power or bombs. Oppenheimer wrote a colleague about the possibility of a 10 cm cube of uranium detonating.

  • In the same week, a graduate student named Joseph Weinberg met Oppenheimer, finding him in a hubbub as physicists debated the implications of fission.

  • Oppenheimer quickly grasped the potential applications of fission, including both power generation and atomic bombs. He was excited yet also saw the deadly possibilities of this breakthrough discovery.

Oppenheimer interrogated Weinberg when he arrived at Berkeley about working with Breit in Wisconsin. Though Weinberg was evasive at first, he admitted he had worked independently from Breit. Oppenheimer welcomed him to join the physics department. Weinberg met famous physicists like Lawrence and Pauling and Oppenheimer’s students. They speculated about building a bomb using nuclear fission.

Oppenheimer challenged Weinberg’s knowledge and made him write up a paper overnight to present the next morning. Though critical at first, Oppenheimer was impressed and compared the paper to Paul Ehrenfest’s work. He had Weinberg present the paper to the department.

Oppenheimer was a dynamic teacher, tailoring his constantly changing lectures to the students. His insights were like lightning flashes. He assigned plenty of homework but gave no exams. Oppenheimer was sometimes caustic but treated struggling students gently. He nurtured a vulnerable student by planting a perfect thesis topic for him to “discover.” This displayed Oppenheimer’s love and sympathy for students.

  • Robert Oppenheimer mentored and inspired a group of unconventional, left-leaning graduate students at Berkeley in the late 1930s, including Philip Morrison, David Bohm, Giovanni Rossi Lomanitz, and Joe Weinberg. They regarded Oppenheimer as a role model and admired his intellect and eloquence.

  • Some of these students, like Morrison and Bohm, joined the Communist Party, while others like Weinberg were probably members briefly. They were motivated by antifascist sentiments and a desire to support the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany, especially during major battles like Stalingrad.

  • The Party meetings often involved open discussions about a range of topics, not just politics. Membership was generally secretive to avoid repercussions at the university. The students saw themselves as pushing the New Deal further left, not planning revolution.

  • Other left-leaning figures in Oppenheimer’s circle included David Hawkins, who joined the Communist Party in 1937, and Martin Kamen, who was not a communist but attended Oppenheimer’s fundraising events.

  • Oppenheimer inspired some of them, like Kamen, to unsuccessfully try organizing a union at Lawrence’s Radiation Lab. But Oppenheimer maintained enough distance to avoid fully participating in their political activities or joining the Party himself.

Here is a summary of the key points regarding the likelihood of America getting into the war:

  • In autumn 1941, Oppenheimer organized a meeting at his home to recruit scientists from Lawrence’s Radiation Lab into a union (FAECT), despite security concerns. This angered Lawrence, who was trying to get Oppenheimer onto the bomb project but thought his “left-wandering activities” were an obstacle.

  • However, by late 1941 Oppenheimer assured Lawrence he had ceased his union activities, realizing this was necessary to participate in the bomb project he now saw as important to defeat Nazi Germany. He had been collaborating unofficially with Lawrence on bomb research since early 1941.

  • Though Oppenheimer stopped his union involvement, in autumn 1941 he still publicly protested political witch-hunts against alleged communist sympathizers. This further frustrated Lawrence regarding Oppenheimer’s radical politics.

  • By late 1941, Oppenheimer recognized his involvement in the bomb project was vital and he needed to curtail his controversial political activities to participate. This coincided with America’s growing concern over Nazi Germany’s potential nuclear progress, making US entry into the war more likely.

In summary, by late 1941 Oppenheimer was transitioning away from radical politics to focus on the bomb project, just as fears over Nazi nuclear progress increased the likelihood of US involvement in the war. Despite frustrations with Oppenheimer’s past politics, scientists recognized his contributions were vital for the American bomb effort.

  • In the early years of WWII, physicists like Leo Szilard and Albert Einstein warned the U.S. government that atomic bombs were a possibility. This led to the creation of committees and groups to look into the feasibility.

  • Robert Oppenheimer, a brilliant physicist, was recruited to help lead the theoretical research into designing an atomic bomb. In 1942, he organized a secret summer seminar of top physicists, including Hans Bethe and Edward Teller, to outline a basic bomb design.

  • The seminar estimated that a fission bomb could be thousands of times more powerful than conventional explosives. They determined a chain reaction could likely be achieved with a small uranium core.

  • However, many specifics still lacked hard experimental data, like exactly how much fissionable material was needed. It became clear an industrial-scale plant would be required, making the bomb project very expensive.

  • Oppenheimer played a key role as leader of the theoretical design efforts. His intellect impressed the other scientists, though he also feared they were underestimating the difficulties. The feasibility of an atomic bomb remained uncertain.

  • Y was in a race against time to develop the atomic bomb before the Germans, so he impatiently dismissed research efforts that seemed too slow. When a scientist proposed a laborious method for measuring neutron scattering, Y argued for a quicker approach.

  • In July 1942, Edward Teller informed Y’s group of calculations on the feasibility of a hydrogen “super” bomb. This briefly distracted the group, but calculations soon convinced them the risk of igniting the atmosphere was minimal.

  • Y was suggested to lead the bomb development effort, but the Army refused to grant him security clearance due to his leftist associations. Bush and Conant pushed for his clearance anyway, arguing his contributions were vital.

  • In September 1942, Gen. Leslie Groves was put in charge of the Manhattan Project to develop the bomb. He and Y were opposites, but Groves was impressed by Y’s brilliance and ambition. After meeting, Groves quickly decided Y should lead the central bomb laboratory the project needed.

  • Groves recruited Oppenheimer to lead the secret atomic bomb project and had him join him on a train to New York to discuss it further. Though brilliant, Oppenheimer was an unlikely choice due to his lack of Nobel Prize, administrative experience, and leftist political background.

  • Oppenheimer began telling some colleagues vaguely about his new role leading a secret military project, though details were scarce. There were rumors and speculation amongst Oppenheimer’s students and associates in Berkeley about a powerful new weapon being developed.

  • The FBI was wiretapping Steve Nelson, a Communist Party member who knew Oppenheimer from the Spanish Civil War. They overheard a conversation between Nelson and a man named “Joe” (likely Oppenheimer’s student Joseph Weinberg) about the secret bomb project being moved to a remote location for testing.

  • Nelson criticized Oppenheimer for keeping radicals like Joe off the project out of fear they would “propagandize.” He felt Oppenheimer had changed and was now ambitious and more concerned about his prestige than politics. Nelson blamed Oppenheimer’s wife Kitty for influencing him in the wrong direction politically.

  • Lt. Col. Boris Pash of Army intelligence suspected Oppenheimer and some of his students of espionage after an illegal FBI wiretap picked up a conversation between Communist organizer Steve Nelson and a physicist referred to as “Joe.” Pash thought “Joe” was Joseph Weinberg, one of Oppenheimer’s students.

  • Pash put Weinberg and other students like David Bohm under surveillance. Bohm was barred from working on the Manhattan Project and could not write up his own thesis research due to lack of security clearance. Oppenheimer tried to get him transferred to Los Alamos but was refused.

  • Other students like Bernstein Lomanitz and Max Friedman were fired from their jobs and drafted into the Army. Weinberg was also drafted and sent to Alaska.

  • Before leaving for Los Alamos, Oppenheimer met with his friend Steve Nelson one last time for lunch in Berkeley. This would be the last time they saw each other.

  • Army intelligence equated the students’ union activities with subversive tendencies and used it as justification to get rid of them. Oppenheimer tried to intervene for his students but was largely unsuccessful. The incident shows how even circumstantial evidence and suspicion was enough to derail careers and lives during the war.

Based on the summary, here are the key points about the “Chevalier affair”:

  • The incident occurred in 1942-43 at Oppenheimer’s home, where he and Kitty invited Haakon and Barbara Chevalier over for dinner.

  • In the kitchen, Chevalier told Oppenheimer that their mutual acquaintance George Eltenton had approached him about passing scientific information to a Soviet diplomat.

  • According to Oppenheimer’s testimony, he responded by saying “that is treason” and expressed disapproval, ending the conversation.

  • Chevalier claimed he was just informing Oppenheimer and not soliciting information.

  • There are differing accounts from Oppenheimer, Chevalier, Kitty, and Barbara about the exact conversation and who was present.

  • Eltenton said he had been approached by a Soviet intelligence officer about sharing scientific information and agreed to contact Chevalier to reach Oppenheimer.

  • The incident was seen as compromising for Oppenheimer when it later came up during his security hearings, as he did not immediately report it to authorities.

In summary, it involved suggestions passed through acquaintances of Oppenheimer to share scientific information with the Soviets during WWII, which Oppenheimer rebuffed but did not report. The varying accounts and involvement of his close friend Chevalier later raised questions about Oppenheimer’s judgment.

Here are the key points in summarizing the passage:

  • In November 1942, Oppenheimer, McMillan, and Army Major Dudley inspected potential sites for a new weapons lab in New Mexico, including Jemez Springs. Oppenheimer argued the site was too confined, and proposed Los Alamos instead when General Groves arrived.

  • Los Alamos was a boys’ school located on a mesa about 30 miles from Jemez Springs. Oppenheimer, Groves, Lawrence and others inspected the 800-acre site and Groves quickly decided it was the right location.

  • Within days, the Army initiated buying the school. Oppenheimer returned with McMillan and Lawrence, posing under false names for security. Oppenheimer was enthralled with the school’s beautiful setting.

  • The remote location meant building a town from scratch for workers and their families. Housing, roads, utilities, and facilities would have to be constructed quickly. Oppenheimer realized running the lab would require developing new skills and adjusting his lifestyle.

  • At 39, Oppenheimer essentially had to remake aspects of his personality to succeed. The fast-track schedule meant nearly everything, including Oppenheimer’s transformation, had to happen very quickly. His commitment and willpower allowed him to come very close to meeting the impossible demands.

  • In late 1942, J. Robert Oppenheimer and General Leslie Groves chose the isolated Los Alamos Ranch School as the secret site for the Manhattan Project’s main nuclear weapons laboratory.

  • Oppenheimer wanted the spectacular view of the mountains, while Groves wanted the isolation. Construction crews quickly built basic facilities.

  • Oppenheimer recruited scientists like Hans Bethe with promises of furnished housing, amenities like a hospital and school, and laboratory equipment shipped in secretly.

  • But in early 1943, Oppenheimer was struggling as an administrator overseeing the massive project. Colleagues like John Manley doubted Oppenheimer’s management abilities. The infrastructure was chaotic.

  • Oppenheimer underestimated staffing needs, initially saying just a handful of scientists were required. Within a year, thousands worked at Los Alamos.

  • However, Oppenheimer proved adaptable, transforming into an efficient, charismatic leader. Key recruits like Robert Wilson, initially skeptical of Oppenheimer, came to idolize him.

  • By summer 1945, Los Alamos had grown from a wilderness outpost to a town of 4,000+ civilians and 2,000 military personnel working in hundreds of buildings and labs. Oppenheimer had molded it into a functioning nuclear weapons laboratory.

Here is a summary of the key points about Oppenheimer’s uses and offices:

  • Oppenheimer was originally going to have all the scientists at Los Alamos become commissioned Army officers per General Groves’ suggestion. However, he and most of the other scientists opposed this idea.

  • By February 1943, Rabi and others persuaded Oppenheimer that the lab should “demilitarize”. The compromise was that the scientists would remain civilians during the experimental work, but don uniforms when it came time to test the bomb.

  • Los Alamos was fenced and designated an Army post, but the Technical Area where the scientists worked would be under Oppenheimer’s civilian leadership as Scientific Director.

  • Rabi declined to move to Los Alamos, but served as an important advisor and father figure to Oppenheimer. He urged Oppie to appoint Bethe as head of the theoretical division.

  • Oppenheimer was relentless in recruiting scientists, pursuing men like Bacher for months. He agreed to find a sanatorium in Albuquerque for Feynman’s sick wife Arline so Feynman would join.

  • Oppenheimer used the cover name “Mr. Bradley” when first recruiting Dorothy McKibbin to run the Santa Fe office. She became an indispensable liaison between the scientists and the outside world.

In summary, Oppenheimer skillfully negotiated civilian scientific leadership within the military context of Los Alamos, while masterfully recruiting the best minds he could find for the urgent bomb project. His uses and offices enabled the rapid development of the atomic bomb.

Here is a summary of the key points about St Cady Wells, John Gaw Meem, Martha Graham, and Robert Oppenheimer’s early days at Los Alamos:

  • Dorothy McKibbin was hired by Oppenheimer to run an office in Santa Fe that served as the gateway to the secret Los Alamos laboratory. McKibbin was connected to the Santa Fe art community, including the painter St Cady Wells and architect John Gaw Meem.

  • McKibbin was also friends with the dancer Martha Graham, who spent summers in New Mexico in the late 1930s. This demonstrated that McKibbin was sophisticated, well-connected, and self-confident.

  • Oppenheimer was immediately impressed by McKibbin and relied on her to handle the logistics of scientists coming to Los Alamos. She became the “gatekeeper” even though she didn’t know the purpose of the lab.

  • In early 1943, Oppenheimer moved to Los Alamos into a rustic log house. The setting was beautiful but conditions were primitive at first, with many scientists housed in barracks.

  • Oppenheimer worked to make the best of things, encouraging casual dress and flexible work hours. His manner impressed many as he seemed focused, brilliant, but also humble and kind.

  • The work at Los Alamos involved long, stressful hours for the scientists. But the scenic location and sense of comradery compensated somewhat for the difficult living conditions.

  • Robert Oppenheimer transformed from a hesitant, diffident theoretical physicist focused on pure science into a decisive, charismatic leader managing an industrial enterprise at Los Alamos.

  • His intellect, personality, and leadership skills inspired scientists like Bethe, Feynman, Wilson, and others to do their best work. He elicited loyalty and cooperation through subtle influence rather than direct orders.

  • Oppenheimer had an uncanny ability to quickly comprehend engineering and ordnance issues beyond his expertise in theoretical physics. He listened to others’ advice but made the final decisions.

  • Oppenheimer convened weekly colloquiums where scientists freely exchanged ideas, boosting morale with a sense of mission.

  • Robert Serber’s lectures informed scientists on the goal of building a uranium or plutonium fission bomb, revealing more progress had been made than many realized despite compartmentalization.

  • Remaining obstacles were largely engineering challenges rather than unsolved physics, lending confidence the project could succeed before Germany.

  • Oppenheimer appointed his former classmate Edward Condon as associate director of Los Alamos. Condon was an experienced physicist and administrator who could help manage the lab.

  • Condon advocated for more open exchange of ideas between scientists at different labs working on the bomb project. He clashed with General Groves, who insisted on strict compartmentalization for security.

  • In April 1943, Condon resigned after just 6 weeks at Los Alamos. He was upset that Oppenheimer did not back him in arguments with Groves over security restrictions.

  • Condon felt the extreme security measures made it nearly impossible to do good science. He argued Oppenheimer was trying to do a difficult job with his hands tied by all the secrecy.

  • Oppenheimer was in a tough spot because he had not yet received his own security clearance from the Army. He could not push back hard against Groves’ security demands without jeopardizing his position as director.

  • Condon left disappointed that Oppenheimer would not stand up to Groves. He resigned to work on radar technology elsewhere, feeling he could better contribute to the war effort that way.

Here is a summary of the key points about Oppenheimer’s job as scientific director at Los Alamos:

  • Oppenheimer and General Groves had a complex relationship - each thought they could dominate the other. Groves believed Oppenheimer’s leadership was essential, but that his past leftist politics gave Groves leverage over him. Oppenheimer believed his competence would allow him to run Los Alamos as he saw fit.

  • Oppenheimer worked to appease Groves, becoming an efficient administrator and conforming his appearance to military standards.

  • Oppenheimer resisted strict compartmentalization of research, believing open communication between scientists was key. He defended practices like the General Colloquium despite Groves’ objections.

  • Oppenheimer shared his team’s sense of urgency to beat the Germans and exhorted them to work hard. But he resisted letting his people go around the military chain of command to speed things up.

  • As scientific director, Oppenheimer had near absolute authority over Los Alamos, with military post commanders largely just smoothing operations. This allowed Oppenheimer to shape the lab’s research culture.

In summary, Oppenheimer leveraged his leadership abilities and technical expertise to run Los Alamos largely as he saw fit, despite military management and security concerns. His priority was enabling his scientists to efficiently build the bomb before Germany.

  • Security was a major concern at Los Alamos. Armed guards, fences, and surveillance aimed to protect the secrecy of the atomic bomb project.

  • Oppenheimer and the scientists disliked the intrusive security measures, which restricted their movements and privacy. Oppenheimer in particular felt his phone was tapped and his mail read.

  • Some scientists like Feynman rebelled against security in mischievous ways, like repeatedly escaping through holes in the fence.

  • Army counterintelligence agents distrusted the scientists as “temperamental” and monitored them closely, tapping Oppenheimer’s communications.

  • Oppenheimer appointed his own internal security committee to monitor things like classified documents, partly to protect his people from dismissal by Army intelligence.

  • Oppenheimer continued to see his ex-girlfriend Jean Tatlock periodically despite being married. This raised concerns when Oppenheimer visited Tatlock in 1943 while working on the bomb project.

In summary, security was a constant source of tension between the scientists and military at Los Alamos, with Oppenheimer caught in between trying to protect his team while under surveillance himself.

Here is a summary of the key points about Mark, an elegant restaurant with one of the best views in San Francisco:

  • Mark is described as an elegant restaurant in San Francisco with one of the best views in the city.

  • Jean Tatlock and J. Robert Oppenheimer had an intimate dinner date there in 1943, which was monitored by intelligence agents.

  • The agents reported that Oppenheimer rushed to affectionately greet Tatlock when she arrived, and they walked arm-in-arm into the restaurant.

  • After dinner at Mark, Tatlock drove Oppenheimer back to her apartment where he stayed overnight, indicating their close relationship.

  • The FBI became concerned about Tatlock being a conduit for Oppenheimer to pass atomic secrets to Soviet agents.

  • Mark is portrayed as a place where Oppenheimer and Tatlock, who likely still loved each other, shared an intimate evening together before he left for Los Alamos.

Here is a summary of the key points in the excerpt:

  • General Groves agreed to keep Oppenheimer as director of Los Alamos despite security concerns, believing he was essential to the bomb project. However, security officers like Lt. Col. Pash strongly disagreed with this decision.

  • Oppenheimer’s protégé Rossi Lomanitz was drafted by the Army after an investigative report by Pash, despite Oppenheimer’s protests. This made Oppenheimer worried about past associations being targeted.

  • Oppenheimer had a conversation with security officer Lansdale where he indicated he had severed any Communist Party connections when he started working on the bomb project. Lansdale believed Oppenheimer was sincere.

  • Oppenheimer decided to tell authorities about George Eltenton’s proposal to get bomb information to the Soviets, as conveyed earlier by Haakon Chevalier.

  • In an interview with Pash, Oppenheimer brought up Eltenton’s activities but was then drawn into vague discussions of other “approaches” to transmit information to the Soviets, going beyond the specific Eltenton incident. This rambling response made Oppenheimer anxious.

Here are the key points from the summary:

  • Oppenheimer was questioned by security agent Pash about approaches made to Oppenheimer’s colleagues to share secret information with the Soviets.

  • Oppenheimer identified George Eltenton as someone who was asking project members to share information with the Soviets through contacts at the Soviet consulate.

  • Oppenheimer refused to name other project members who had been approached, believing them to be innocent. He did say two were from Los Alamos.

  • Oppenheimer believed the motivation was to help the Soviet allies, not treason, as there were defects in official communication channels.

  • Oppenheimer told Pash that communist affiliation was not compatible with secret war work due to dual loyalties.

  • Oppenheimer insisted everything at Los Alamos was secure and he would be “willing to be shot” if that was found not to be the case.

  • Oppenheimer suggested an informant could be placed in the scientists’ union FAECT to monitor activities.

In summary, Oppenheimer reported some approaches to share information with the Soviets, identified one individual behind them, but refused to implicate other scientists he saw as innocent. He assured project security of Los Alamos’ security despite these approaches.

  • Oppenheimer had a bizarre conversation with security officer Boris Pash, raising suspicions of espionage but refusing to name names. This was recorded unknown to Oppenheimer and became part of his security file.

  • Oppenheimer later spoke with Lansdale, who revealed the government had known since February that people were transmitting project information to the Soviets. Oppenheimer seemed genuinely shocked.

  • When asked, Oppenheimer admitted to being a “fellow traveler” with communist organizations in the past, during the Spanish Civil War up until the Nazi-Soviet pact, though he never formally joined the Communist Party.

  • Oppenheimer refused to name the intermediary who had approached him about espionage, feeling it would be a “low trick” to involve someone he believed was innocent.

  • Groves and other security officers remained suspicious of Oppenheimer’s communist associations, but Groves trusted that Oppenheimer’s scientific reputation was his top priority and he would not betray the project.

  • Lt. Col. Boris Pash had investigated Oppenheimer in 1943 regarding possible Soviet espionage, but was unable to uncover any solid evidence. In late 1943, Groves transferred Pash away from the Oppenheimer investigation to lead a secret mission in Europe.

  • Meanwhile, the FBI continued surveillance on Oppenheimer’s ex-girlfriend Jean Tatlock into early 1944, though they found nothing to confirm suspicions she was a Soviet conduit.

  • In January 1944, Tatlock committed suicide by drowning herself in her bathtub. Her father John Tatlock discovered her body but did not immediately call police. He searched her apartment, found private letters and photos, and burned some materials in the fireplace before calling authorities.

  • The coroner determined Tatlock had died at least 12 hours earlier from drowning, with drugs in her system. She left a suicide note expressing disgust and despair. Her death was ruled a suicide with unknown motive.

  • Tatlock had a history of depressive episodes and was undergoing psychiatric treatment, though friends felt she was doing well. Her father’s actions in burning materials suggest he wanted to conceal a personal aspect of her life exposed in the letters.

  • Jean Tatlock, Oppenheimer’s former fiancée, committed suicide in January 1944 by drowning herself in her bathtub. She had taken barbiturates beforehand.

  • The autopsy found traces of chloral hydrate (knockout drops) in her system, fueling speculation she may have been killed. Her brother questioned whether it was really suicide.

  • Tatlock had confided her struggles with depression and latent homosexuality to Oppenheimer over the years. Her suicide deeply grieved him.

  • Some have speculated that Tatlock’s death was suspicious given the past wiretapping and interrogation proposals targeting Oppenheimer’s acquaintances by Colonel Boris Pash of Army intelligence. However, no evidence links Pash to Tatlock’s death.

  • Oppenheimer believed she took her own life, a “paralyzed soul.” Her suicide may be considered the first casualty of his leadership of the Los Alamos lab, as their relationship was cut off when he took the position.

  • Los Alamos was transforming into a self-contained community of scientists sponsored and protected by the U.S. Army. Ruth Marshak described arriving and feeling like they had shut a great door behind them, separated from the outside world.

  • The winter of 1943-44 brought heavy snows that enhanced the natural beauty but also isolated the town. Residents learned to appreciate the local landscape and culture.

  • Los Alamos developed a sense of community, aided by Oppenheimer’s leadership. He appointed a Town Council, started a radio station, and showed appreciation for people’s sacrifices.

  • Life became relatively comfortable, if not luxurious. Oppenheimer was known for hosting parties where he encouraged people to work hard and play hard. Dancing, music recitals, and horseback riding were popular weekend activities.

  • Kitty Oppenheimer did not embrace the role of a director’s wife. She worked as a lab technician and preferred casual wear over hosting social events.

  • Oppenheimer showed great stamina hiking and riding horses. He was frequently seen around town greeting people. Despite his smoking, he rarely got sick.

  • The Army provided services like collecting garbage, chopping wood, and bringing in Pueblo Indian women as housekeepers so wives could work. This helped maintain a self-sufficient community.

  • Los Alamos had an unusually high percentage of single men and women, and the Army struggled to keep the sexes apart. Robert Wilson, the youngest group leader, allowed a women’s dormitory to remain open despite Army objections over allegations of prostitution, after implementing health measures.

  • Kitty Oppenheimer felt isolated and trapped in Los Alamos, unable to pursue her professional ambitions as a botanist. She was intense, intelligent, and vital but could also be haughty, abrupt, and demanding of attention.

  • Oppenheimer frequently visited Dorothy McKibbin’s adobe home in Santa Fe, viewing it as a refuge from constant surveillance on The Hill. McKibbin adored Oppenheimer and he trusted her.

  • When Oppenheimer needed a new secretary in 1945, he chose 20-year-old Anne Wilson despite security concerns. Rumors of an affair circulated but Wilson denied anything romantic occurred. Kitty befriended Wilson over time.

  • Colonel Lansdale courted Kitty as an informant on her husband, recognizing her strong personality and communist leanings. Oppenheimer was devoted to Kitty and sought her advice on many issues.

  • Kitty Oppenheimer, Robert’s wife, was under intense scrutiny at Los Alamos due to her past communist ties. She felt like she was living under a microscope.

  • The strain of life at Los Alamos took a toll on both Robert and Kitty. Kitty began drinking heavily and having emotional problems.

  • In April 1945, a depressed Kitty left Los Alamos for several months, leaving her 4-month-old daughter “Tyke” (Katherine) in the care of a friend, Pat Sherr.

  • Robert visited Tyke only twice a week and seemed detached. He shockingly suggested that Sherr adopt Tyke, saying he couldn’t love her.

  • Sherr declined to adopt Tyke, reassuring Robert he would become attached in time. This showed Robert’s conscience and desire to do right by his child despite his limitations.

  • Kitty eventually returned in July 1945, as tensions mounted leading up to the bomb test. She began hosting daily cocktail hours with women friends.

  • Dinner at Edith Warner’s home off base provided a rare escape for Oppenheimer. He dissuaded her from taking a big food service job on base in order to keep her restaurant small and intimate.

  • In December 1943, the renowned Danish physicist Niels Bohr arrived at Los Alamos to consult on the Manhattan Project. His views on sharing atomic secrets with the Soviets horrified General Groves, who tried unsuccessfully to restrict Bohr’s access and conversations.

  • Bohr believed that the engineering challenges of an atomic bomb were immense and impractical before the Manhattan Project proved him wrong. After learning of the progress, he became deeply concerned about a postwar nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union.

  • Bohr advocated openly sharing information about the bomb with the Soviets and getting assurances it was not a threat to them. This was anathema to the secrecy-obsessed Groves.

  • On the journey to Los Alamos, Groves personally escorted Bohr, but found the physicist’s tendency to mumble and raise postwar implications exhausting. Bohr was irrepressible in wanting to discuss policy despite compartmentalization.

  • Oppenheimer was overjoyed to have Bohr’s prestige and wisdom on hand. Bohr immediately questioned whether the bomb would be so powerful as to make future wars inconceivable. This prompted Oppenheimer to start thinking about long-term implications for the first time.

  • Bohr’s views inspired the scientists to think beyond the narrow goal of an atomic bomb to larger issues of international control and cooperation. This shift left Groves deeply uneasy about letting such a loose cannon remain at Los Alamos.

  • Niels Bohr visited Los Alamos in December 1943 and had several discussions with J. Robert Oppenheimer about the consequences of building an atomic bomb. Though Bohr provided some technical insights, his main impact was getting Oppenheimer to think more deeply about the political and ethical implications of the bomb.

  • Bohr recounted his 1941 meeting with Werner Heisenberg in German-occupied Denmark, which left Bohr with the fear that Germany had its own atomic bomb project led by Heisenberg. This news alarmed the scientists at Los Alamos, though they were reassured when Bohr showed them Heisenberg’s sketch of a proposed bomb design, which they recognized as technically flawed.

  • Bohr argued that the atomic bomb would be a great scientific achievement but also a “perpetual menace to human security” unless there was international control and cooperation on atomic energy. He believed an “open world” without secrecy was necessary to prevent a postwar nuclear arms race.

  • Bohr thought the US should inform Stalin about the bomb and bring the Soviet Union into discussions on controlling atomic energy before the war ended. Oppenheimer agreed with Bohr’s views on postwar planning and the need to avoid an arms race.

  • Bohr’s visit reinvigorated Oppenheimer intellectually and morally by getting him to think more deeply about the bomb’s implications at a time when he was consumed with technical/administrative work. Bohr’s views clearly influenced Oppenheimer’s thinking on postwar atomic issues.

  • Oppenheimer’s presence at Los Alamos galvanized the scientists to work harder on the bomb project. His continuous intense involvement made them feel like direct participants.

  • In contrast, General Groves’ visits were disruptive interruptions. On one occasion, Groves leaned on a hot water tube which popped off the wall, spraying Groves with hot water. Oppenheimer quipped about the incompressibility of water.

  • Oppenheimer understood that insufficient fissionable material was the major obstacle to quickly building a usable bomb. So in 1944, he advocated for adding a liquid thermal diffusion plant to partially enrich uranium to feed into the electromagnetic plant. This accelerated bomb material production by 30-40%.

  • Initially skeptical, Groves eventually approved the liquid thermal diffusion plant based on Oppenheimer’s recommendation. This demonstrated Oppenheimer’s essential role in overcoming technical obstacles to the bomb’s development.

  • Meanwhile, Oppenheimer worried about the global impact of the atomic bomb. He organized a conference in late 1944 to discuss controlling the bomb’s knowledge after the war. But most scientists felt this was premature.

  • Oppenheimer clung to the hope that the openness advocated by Niels Bohr could prevent an arms race. But he was unable to persuade political leaders of this view, even as his own influence with them declined.

  • Oppenheimer was confident in the uranium gun design for a bomb, but in 1944 tests showed that this design wouldn’t work for a plutonium bomb, creating a crisis.

  • Oppenheimer rejected the idea of trying to purify the plutonium, arguing it would cause unacceptable delays.

  • Instead, he proposed betting everything on an implosion design, despite little progress being made on this concept so far. This was an audacious gamble.

  • Oppenheimer reorganized the lab, putting George Kistiakowsky in charge of implosion over Seth Neddermeyer, causing tensions.

  • By late 1944, progress on the implosion design was still slow. Oppenheimer backed Kistiakowsky in debates over continuing with the complex lens design.

  • By mid-1945, the implosion design problems were solved, largely due to Oppenheimer’s leadership in marshaling the scientists and making risky decisions like betting on implosion. His adept management was critical to the success of the bomb project.

  • In early 1944, a team of British scientists led by Rudolf Peierls arrived at Los Alamos to work on the Manhattan Project. Peierls and Oppenheimer were acquainted from before the war.

  • Oppenheimer appointed Peierls to take over work on implosion calculations from Edward Teller, who was uncooperative and obsessed with the “Super” (hydrogen bomb). This angered Teller, though Oppie still met with him weekly to discuss ideas.

  • Oppenheimer tolerated Teller’s difficult behavior because he recognized Teller’s brilliance and thought he might eventually make useful contributions.

  • In December 1944, Oppenheimer urged I.I. Rabi to visit Los Alamos again, though crises were continuous and no time was ideal. Rabi had just won the Nobel Prize.

  • Oppenheimer found time to write personal letters, like to a German refugee family he had helped escape Europe in 1940. This was an antifascist gesture and reminder of why he worked on the bomb.

  • Physicist Joseph Rotblat left the project in December 1944 after realizing the bomb was meant to subdue the Soviets, not just Nazis. Oppenheimer’s restlessness drove him onward without pause.

  • In autumn 1944, the first Soviet spies at Los Alamos began sending intelligence, including Klaus Fuchs and Ted Hall.

  • Klaus Fuchs, a German refugee and communist, worked on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, passing classified information about the atomic bomb to the Soviets. Neither Oppenheimer nor others suspected him of espionage.

  • Ted Hall, a young American scientist at Los Alamos, decided on his own to provide information to the Soviets in 1944 out of concern that a U.S. monopoly on the bomb could lead to another war. Oppenheimer did not know about Hall’s activities.

  • Some scientists at Los Alamos, including Robert Wilson, began having ethical concerns about continuing work on the bomb, especially after it was clear it would not be used against Germany.

  • Wilson organized a meeting to discuss the impact of the bomb despite Oppenheimer’s attempts to discourage it. Oppenheimer attended and argued the bomb’s existence should be revealed to the world to avoid an arms race.

  • There were also other informal discussions among concerned scientists about use of the bomb and the role of the scientists. Oppenheimer argued they had no special voice but tried to discourage the political meetings.

  • While some scientists considered quitting, most were persuaded by arguments like Oppenheimer’s that revealing the bomb’s existence could help avoid an arms race and future atomic war.

Here is a summary of the key points from the excerpt:

  • In April 1945, after FDR’s death, Oppenheimer eulogized him at Los Alamos as a great leader who had inspired faith that the sacrifices of WWII would lead to a more peaceful world. Oppenheimer hoped Truman would be a good “carpenter” to carry on FDR’s vision.

  • As the war in Europe ended, some scientists like Emilio Segrè began questioning if the bomb was still needed against the Nazis. Debate grew over using it against Japan.

  • Leo Szilard tried repeatedly to stop the bomb’s use, warning it could start an arms race with the Soviets. He met with Truman and Secretary of State nominee James Byrnes, but they were set on using the bomb against Japan.

  • Szilard met with Oppenheimer in May and argued the bomb had no military significance, only massive destruction. But Oppenheimer felt the Soviets should be told the U.S. would use it on Japan so they would “understand.”

  • At a key May 1945 meeting, Stimson and other officials recommitted to using the bomb on Japan. Some scientists like Oppenheimer were present but did not advocate against its use. Debate was shutting down over not using this new weapon.

  • Henry Stimson chaired a meeting of the Interim Committee, which included Oppenheimer and other scientists, to discuss the military and political implications of the atomic bomb.

  • Oppenheimer said the bomb was a “revolutionary change” and could secure global peace, but also warned it could become a “Frankenstein.”

  • He urged allowing most scientists to return to normal research after the war to avoid sterility, rather than having the Manhattan Project continue dominating.

  • Oppenheimer argued for sharing general information with the Russians to strengthen moral position, and against prejudging their attitudes. Marshall agreed Russia had been friendly to science and raised inviting Russian scientists to the bomb test.

  • Byrnes objected to Russian involvement and wanted to stay ahead in production and research. The consensus agreed with Byrnes.

  • The committee discussed targeting Japan, agreeing on seeking a profound psychological impact on inhabitants while avoiding explicit targeting of civilians.

  • Oppenheimer did not object to targeting decisions, but suggested simultaneous bombings. Groves complained of disloyal scientists like Szilard, and agreed some should be severed after the bomb’s use.

  • The scientists were told they could inform colleagues they had freedom to present views to the committee.

  • Oppenheimer played an ambiguous role in the discussion about briefing the Russians on the atomic bomb. He argued for sharing some information, but did not object when Groves said he would dismiss dissident scientists.

  • A group of scientists including Szilard produced the Franck Report, which recommended demonstrating the bomb rather than using it without warning on Japan. This report was not seen by Truman.

  • Oppenheimer solicited opinions on use of the bomb from Los Alamos scientists like Wilson and Morrison. They advocated some kind of warning to Japan, but Oppenheimer did not back these suggestions.

  • The Scientific Panel, including Oppenheimer, recommended immediate military use of the bomb, believing it could end the war and improve international relations. However, they could not agree on specifics of how to use it.

  • Oppenheimer admitted knowing little about the military situation in Japan, including intelligence suggesting the Japanese were seeking surrender terms.

  • The meeting where these matters were discussed was adjourned at 4:15 pm.

  • In the weeks leading up to the bombing of Hiroshima, some of Truman’s top advisers believed Japan was ready to surrender and that the atomic bombing may be unnecessary.

  • General Eisenhower told Stimson he thought the bombing was unnecessary as the Japanese were ready to surrender.

  • McCloy recommended telling Japan they could keep the Emperor and retain their government, which he believed would secure a surrender.

  • On July 17, Truman’s chief of staff Leahy wrote he thought a surrender could be arranged on acceptable terms.

  • Oppenheimer was isolated at Los Alamos and unaware of these internal debates in Washington over the need for the bombing.

  • After the war, Oppenheimer came to believe he had been misled about the necessity of the bombing.

  • At Los Alamos, some scientists including Szilard petitioned for a demonstration bombing rather than direct use on a city, but Oppenheimer dismissed this idea.

  • Teller initially had moral objections but was persuaded by Oppenheimer’s arguments that the scientists should leave the decision to politicians like Stimson.

  • Oppenheimer ensured the petition did not reach Washington in time to influence the decision.

So in summary, key insiders believed Japan was ready to surrender but Oppenheimer, isolated at Los Alamos, did not know this. He dismissed proposals for a demonstration bombing and ensured voices of dissent did not reach Washington before the decision was made.

Here is a summary of the key points about Oppenheimer’s student days at Göttingen:

  • Oppenheimer studied at the University of Göttingen in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. Göttingen was a leading center for physics research at the time.

  • At Göttingen, Oppenheimer worked closely with Nobel Prize winning physicist Max Born and was influenced by the quantum mechanics revolution occurring there.

  • Oppenheimer learned German quickly and immersed himself in the intellectual culture. He read poetry, philosophy, and Sanskrit in addition to physics.

  • His time at Göttingen shaped Oppenheimer’s thinking and gave him a broad perspective beyond just science. It helped make him into both a physicist and an intellectual.

  • Oppenheimer valued the academic freedom and collaborative spirit he found at Göttingen. This contrasted with the more competitive environment he experienced at Cambridge.

  • Overall, Oppenheimer’s Göttingen years gave him a strong scientific foundation and allowed him to develop connections with leading European physicists of the era. It was a formative experience for him.

  • After the successful Trinity test, Oppenheimer’s mood began to change as the reality set in that the bomb would now be used on cities full of civilians.

  • His secretary Anne Wilson noticed he seemed very somber and resigned, at one point muttering “Those poor little people” in reference to the Japanese who would be killed.

  • Despite his misgivings, Oppenheimer worked to ensure the bomb would be dropped efficiently and destructively on the chosen targets. He met with military officials and gave precise instructions for the bombing of Hiroshima.

  • Oppenheimer hoped the bombs would be used in a limited manner that would not spark a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union. He was initially relieved to hear the Interim Committee decided on a demonstration bombing to try to get Japan to surrender before cities were attacked.

  • However, when Groves informed him the demonstration bombing had been ruled out and cities would be targeted, Oppenheimer was disturbed but accepted it.

  • He struggled to reconcile his qualms about killing civilians with his sense of duty to bring the war to an end. In the end, he acquiesced to the military’s decision, though the dropping of the bombs on cities clearly weighed on him emotionally.

  • J. Robert Oppenheimer had expected an open discussion with the Soviets at the Potsdam conference about the atomic bomb before it was used, but instead Truman only cryptically mentioned a “new weapon” to Stalin. Oppenheimer felt this was a “travesty”.

  • On August 6, 1945, the uranium bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Oppenheimer and Groves exchanged congratulations, though Oppenheimer had doubts. The mood at Los Alamos was excited but many scientists were also horrified by the destruction.

  • After the bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, the mood at Los Alamos turned gloomy. Oppenheimer said war was now impossible due to the bomb’s terrible power. Some scientists felt betrayed that the bomb had been used without warning or discussion.

  • On August 14, Japan surrendered after the Soviet Union declared war and the Allies guaranteed the emperor’s status. This led to debates over whether the bomb had been necessary to end the war.

  • After Nagasaki, Oppenheimer was morose and argued with Ernest Lawrence over the bomb’s use, consumed by moral qualms over opening the door to atomic warfare. This marked a turning point for him.

  • After the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Oppenheimer was deeply troubled and depressed about the terrible destructive power that had been unleashed. He tried to persuade officials in Washington that the bomb made future wars unthinkable and that international control was needed, but found little support.

  • Oppenheimer decided to resign as director of Los Alamos. He was unsure whether to return to academia at Caltech or UC Berkeley, where he had strained relationships with some administrators. His old friend Lawrence was angered when Oppenheimer suggested leadership changes were needed at Berkeley.

  • When scientists like Morrison returned from visiting the bombed cities, the horrors became real to many at Los Alamos. Morrison vividly described the destruction and suffering to Oppenheimer, who scolded another scientist for downplaying the bomb’s effects.

  • Oppenheimer wrote letters to friends expressing his misgivings, sadness and sense of despair over the bomb. Kitty was very worried about his emotional state. The enormity of what had been created weighed on many involved in the Manhattan Project.

  • In the aftermath, Oppenheimer and others felt an urgent need for international control of atomic weapons to avoid future catastrophe. But initial postwar hopes soon faded as tensions arose with the Soviet Union.

Here are the key points from the summary:

  • Robert Oppenheimer became a celebrity after the war due to his leadership role in the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb. He began speaking out publicly about the dangers of nuclear weapons and the need for international control.

  • In August 1945, scientists at Los Alamos formed the Association of Los Alamos Scientists (ALAS) and drafted a statement warning about nuclear dangers and advocating international control. Oppenheimer agreed to deliver it to the government.

  • The “ALAS Document” was initially suppressed by the government. Oppenheimer urged patience, believing the Truman Administration had good intentions, but this upset some of his colleagues.

  • Oppenheimer told officials that scientists opposed working on new nuclear weapons after the war. He rejected Edward Teller’s pleas to continue work on the “Super” hydrogen bomb.

  • In October 1945, Truman issued a message to Congress on nuclear issues that initially seemed reassuring to scientists like Oppenheimer, though its impact did not last.

  • The summary highlights Oppenheimer’s transformation into a scientist-statesman and his efforts to influence policy in the early postwar period, including speaking out against an arms race despite some scientists wanting to continue weapons development. His views on international control put him at odds with the government’s position.

  • Herbert Marks, a young lawyer working for Dean Acheson, drafted a message urging Congress to establish an atomic energy commission to regulate the nuclear industry. Oppenheimer helped write the message, which reflected his sense of urgency about controlling atomic energy.

  • The message preceded the May-Johnson bill introduced in Congress, which proposed harsh penalties for security violations and allowed military officers on the commission overseeing atomic energy. Despite objections from scientists, Oppenheimer supported the bill, believing it was an urgent first step toward international control of nuclear weapons.

  • As other scientists like Leo Szilard read the details and opposed May-Johnson, Oppenheimer maintained his support, though his congressional testimony was ambiguous. His brother Frank and others saw Oppenheimer as trying to change policy from within by working with Washington insiders.

  • Opposition from scientists like Szilard led to May-Johnson being defeated and replaced by the McMahon bill for a civilian atomic energy commission. But the final Atomic Energy Act of 1946 still included strict security provisions that troubled many scientists.

  • Oppenheimer formally resigned as Los Alamos director in October 1945 and gave a speech warning that mankind would curse the atomic bomb if used again in war. His words reassured scientists he still opposed nuclear war despite his stance on May-Johnson.

  • Oppenheimer was undecided about his future after the war. He had lucrative job offers from other top institutions, but was unsure if he wanted to leave Berkeley despite feeling underappreciated there. He ended up accepting an offer from Caltech, but asked Berkeley for an extended leave, keeping his options open.

  • Oppenheimer was very anxious about the dangers of atomic weapons and dissatisfied with the government’s policies. He had an intense conversation with Henry Wallace, warning that the bomb could lead to the deaths of millions if handled improperly.

  • Oppenheimer met with President Truman but failed to convince him of the urgency of controlling atomic technology. Their exchange was awkward, with Oppie saying he felt “blood on his hands.” This angered Truman, who later described Oppenheimer as a “cry-baby scientist.”

  • Oppenheimer often lacked composure under pressure, making regretful spontaneous remarks. This would prove an Achilles heel, providing openings for political enemies to eventually destroy him. His habit of candid bluntness with authorities caused tension, as with Truman, and undermined his persuasiveness.

  • After the atomic bombings, J. Edgar Hoover began circulating information about Oppenheimer’s alleged communist ties. In November 1945, Hoover sent reports to the White House and State Department stating that communists in California had referred to Oppenheimer as a “regularly registered” Party member.

  • The FBI’s information was problematic. The communists were likely just claiming Oppenheimer as one of their own due to his new fame as the “atomic bomb” physicist. Their comments did not conclusively prove he was an actual Party member.

  • Even some FBI officials recognized the ambiguity, noting that the communists’ remarks appeared to “leave some doubt” about whether Oppenheimer was truly a Party member.

  • Nevertheless, Hoover’s circulating of unproven insinuations about Oppenheimer’s loyalty planted seeds of suspicion that would later be used against him.

  • After the war, Oppenheimer emerged as an influential voice advising the government on nuclear policy. But Hoover’s smear campaign meant Oppenheimer’s politics and associations now attracted greater scrutiny.

In summary, Hoover exploited ambiguous information to raise suspicions about Oppenheimer’s supposed communist sympathies and loyalty. This laid the groundwork for later persecution of Oppenheimer despite a lack of firm evidence against him.

Based on the summary, key points include:

  • FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover investigated Oppenheimer and other Truman administration officials in 1946, questioning their loyalty and disseminating allegations against them.

  • Hoover was suspicious of anyone associated with nuclear research, including Oppenheimer. The FBI put Oppenheimer under surveillance, tapping his phones and recruiting informants close to him.

  • Oppenheimer was angered by the FBI surveillance, but could not prove the extent of it. His former secretary, Anne Wilson, refused to cooperate with the FBI against him.

  • In late 1945, Oppenheimer and physicist Isidor Rabi proposed an international atomic authority to control both nuclear weapons and peaceful atomic energy, to deter proliferation.

  • In early 1946, Oppenheimer was appointed to a committee advising on international control of nuclear weapons. He impressed other members, especially David Lilienthal, with his vision and clarity.

  • General Leslie Groves felt Oppenheimer charmed the committee too much and they deferred to him excessively.

The key points focus on Hoover’s investigation of Oppenheimer, Oppenheimer’s idea for international control of nuclear energy/weapons, and his influential role advising the government committee on this issue.

  • Robert Oppenheimer led a panel of advisors, including Dean Acheson and David Lilienthal, to make recommendations on nuclear policy after WWII. Their report, known as the Acheson-Lilienthal Report, proposed an international Atomic Development Authority that would control all nuclear technology and materials to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

  • Oppenheimer believed this unprecedented level of international cooperation was necessary to control the nuclear genie let out of the bottle. The report was praised as brilliant, but the State Department under Byrnes was resistant to such a sweeping transfer of sovereignty.

  • Instead, Byrnes appointed financier Bernard Baruch to represent the US plan to the UN. Baruch and his conservative advisers gutted the Acheson-Lilienthal plan, opposing international control of uranium mines and favoring maintained US nuclear superiority.

  • Oppenheimer met with Baruch about being his scientific advisor but was put off by Baruch’s old-fashioned views. He declined the role, but later regretted the decision when Baruch’s scientific advisor gave weak opposition to Baruch’s changes.

  • So due to political resistance, Oppenheimer’s vision of strong international control of nuclear technology was largely abandoned in favor of a plan that maintained US nuclear supremacy. This rejection was a great disappointment to Oppenheimer.

  • In the weeks after the unsuccessful Blair House meeting, Oppenheimer, Acheson, and Lilienthal tried to keep the original Acheson-Lilienthal plan alive by lobbying within the government and media. However, Baruch was moving away from international control of uranium and focused instead on harsh “penalties” for violators.

  • The Blair House meeting itself did not go well. Baruch insisted on provisions for automatic punishment of any violators through atomic attack. This was completely contrary to the cooperative spirit of the original plan. Oppenheimer was very discouraged by this.

  • Baruch’s eventual proposal to the UN sought to prolong the US atomic monopoly by requiring Soviet acceptance of terms like giving up their UN veto and submitting to surveys of their uranium. As Oppenheimer predicted, this led the Soviets to reject the plan.

  • Negotiations continued but the opportunity for good faith effort at international control was lost. Instead, as Oppenheimer foresaw, it fed suspicions and put the countries on a path toward an uncontrolled arms race.

  • In 1946, Oppenheimer proposed international control of nuclear weapons to avoid an arms race, but this was rejected by the U.S. government represented by Bernard Baruch.

  • Oppenheimer felt this rejection was a missed opportunity to curb the nuclear threat, as it led to a massive Soviet nuclear buildup and tens of thousands of warheads built over the next decades.

  • Oppenheimer took personal responsibility for his role in developing the atomic bomb used against Japan, calling it use against an “essentially defeated” enemy. This weighed heavily on him.

  • He was concerned about nuclear terrorism, believing there was no defense against it. He felt international control was the only path to security.

  • Oppenheimer declined to observe the 1946 Bikini Atoll nuclear tests, seeing them as a military exercise that undermined negotiations for control. This further alienated him from President Truman.

  • Despite this, Lilienthal made Oppenheimer chairman of the General Advisory Committee to the new Atomic Energy Commission in 1947, beginning his influential role in post-war nuclear policy. But he remained disheartened that physics now seemed irrelevant to resolving the threat.

  • Oppenheimer was appointed chairman of the General Advisory Committee (GAC) for the Atomic Energy Commission by Truman in early 1947. Other members included prominent scientists like Enrico Fermi and Glenn Seaborg.

  • By this time, Oppenheimer was disillusioned with both the Soviet and American positions on nuclear weapons. He had given up hope that the Soviets would agree to international controls.

  • In 1947, Oppenheimer toughened the American negotiating position, telling the UN negotiator that the US should withdraw from talks as the Soviets would never agree to a workable plan. His views aligned with the emerging Cold War attitudes.

  • He was shaken by evidence of Soviet espionage and “treachery” among scientists like Alan Nunn May. This challenged his belief that American communists were idealistic.

  • The failure of the Baruch Plan for international control further disillusioned him. He reluctantly accepted the need for the US to arm itself with nuclear weapons.

  • Outwardly, Oppenheimer now appeared a member of the Establishment, with his advisory positions, security clearance, and Harvard oversight role.

  • His political views evolved to be more anti-communist but still liberal, valuing individual freedom but recognizing dependence on society. He rejected extremes on both left and right.

  • After World War II ended, Oppenheimer’s political views shifted significantly to the right, away from his previous leftist sympathies. His communist friends like Haakon Chevalier and Phil Morrison noticed he no longer “spoke the same language” as them.

  • In 1946, Chevalier and George Eltenton were interrogated by the FBI about conversations they had with Oppenheimer back in 1943 regarding sharing atomic secrets with the Soviets. Both acknowledged this had occurred but said Oppenheimer had firmly rejected the idea.

  • When Chevalier later spoke to Oppenheimer about the FBI questioning, Oppie seemed very agitated and upset. He was reluctant to end their conversation even when guests were arriving, using foul language toward Kitty when she interrupted them.

  • Something was clearly bothering Oppenheimer about what he had told authorities back in 1943 regarding his interactions with Chevalier and Eltenton. When the FBI also questioned him in 1946, Oppenheimer claimed he could not clearly recall the details of their 1943 conversations due to the lapse of time.

  • In 1946, Lewis Strauss, an appointee to the new Atomic Energy Commission, offered Oppenheimer the position of director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Oppenheimer was initially interested but took time to consider it.

  • The Institute was famous as Albert Einstein’s intellectual home. Oppenheimer saw potential to turn it into a center for serious scholarship. The location near Washington and New York was appealing.

  • Oppenheimer consulted Justice Felix Frankfurter, who discouraged him from taking the job. But others advised that Princeton could be worthwhile if he had a vision for it.

  • Oppenheimer ultimately accepted the position, though Strauss was annoyed he had taken so long to decide. The appointment was seen as a good fit by observers.

  • Early impressions of Strauss were that he was ambitious and conservative but not too problematic. This underestimated him - he would become a dangerous opponent of Oppenheimer’s.

  • Kitty welcomed the move East as a chance to start fresh away from the tensions in Berkeley. Oppenheimer saw the Institute as a new challenge that played to his talents.

Here are the key points from the summarized passage:

  • Oppenheimer was leaving his position at Berkeley to take a job at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. His Berkeley colleagues were disappointed to see him go.

  • Oppenheimer had been having an affair with Ruth Tolman, a psychologist and the wife of his close friend Richard Tolman. Kitty Oppenheimer was likely aware of their friendship but not the affair.

  • After Richard Tolman suddenly died of a heart attack in 1948, rumors spread that it was because he had discovered the affair. Oppenheimer and Ruth continued their relationship after Richard’s death.

  • As part of a background check mandated by the McMahon Act, the FBI investigated Oppenheimer and shared derogatory information about his past leftist associations with the Atomic Energy Commission. This “awful” background troubled the commissioners, especially Lewis Strauss.

In summary, the passage covers Oppenheimer’s move to Princeton, his affair with Ruth Tolman, and the beginning of security concerns about him based on his history of leftist ties.

  • In July 1947, Robert Oppenheimer, his wife Kitty, and their two young children moved to Princeton, New Jersey for his new position as director of the Institute for Advanced Study.

  • They lived in Olden Manor, a large historic house on the Institute’s grounds. Kitty loved gardening and filled the greenhouse with orchids.

  • The Institute provided Oppenheimer a generous $20,000 annual salary, rent-free housing, and plenty of time for travel and other activities.

  • Oppenheimer was only 43 years old when he became director. The position gave him a prestigious platform and easy access to Washington where he served on nuclear policy committees.

  • The Institute was located in Fuld Hall on the grounds near Olden Manor. Albert Einstein had an office there. It provided a tranquil setting for scholars away from the pace of university life.

  • In taking the position, Oppenheimer hoped to find “peace of mind” after the intensity of the Manhattan Project. But controversies over his security clearance and political views continued to plague him.

  • Robert Oppenheimer took over as director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in 1947. He aimed to turn it into an international center for interdisciplinary scholarship.

  • Oppenheimer recruited top physicists like Abraham Pais and hoped to make the Institute a world-class center for theoretical physics, as he had done at Berkeley in the 1930s.

  • In June 1947, Oppenheimer organized a conference at Shelter Island that brought together leading theorists to discuss foundational issues in quantum mechanics. The conference led to breakthroughs like Lamb’s work on the “Lamb shift.”

  • At the conference, Oppenheimer demonstrated his eloquence and ability to stimulate discussion, though some like David Bohm felt he talked too much without contributing original ideas himself.

  • Oppenheimer relished his new power and connections in the postwar years. In contrast to the informal style of most Institute scholars, he wore tailored suits, drove a Cadillac, and mingled with top military and political leaders.

  • The suburban, elite town of Princeton was very different from Oppenheimer’s previous experiences in Berkeley and Los Alamos. But he aimed to make the Institute a hub for top theoretical physics research.

  • After leaving Los Alamos, Oppenheimer became director of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton in 1947. Though he was appointed as a professor of physics, he published little scientific work himself during this time.

  • Oppenheimer worked to transform the Institute into a major center for theoretical physics, recruiting many prominent scientists like Niels Bohr and Chen Ning Yang.

  • Oppenheimer supported John von Neumann’s pioneering work to build one of the first electronic computers at the Institute, though some opposed such practical research there.

  • Oppenheimer also brought in scholars from the humanities like T.S. Eliot, believing it was essential the Institute remained open to both science and the humanities.

  • The Institute provided an idyllic, supportive environment for research and was likened to a “Platonic heaven.” Oppenheimer hoped it could unite the sciences and humanities in understanding the human condition, unlike the narrow focus of Los Alamos.

J. Robert Oppenheimer assembled an extraordinary faculty of brilliant, eccentric minds at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. These included the logician Kurt Gödel, a reclusive genius obsessed with solving the continuum problem; physicist Paul Dirac, painfully literal and silent; mathematician John von Neumann, intellectually brilliant but extremist in his anti-Soviet views; and of course Albert Einstein, who stubbornly rejected quantum theory in favor of his own unified field theory.

Oppenheimer greatly respected Einstein but felt he had become stuck in “tradition” later in life, unable to accept the new thinking in quantum mechanics. Though cordial, their relationship was never very close, hampered by professional disagreements over the validity of quantum theory. Oppenheimer arranged thoughtful gestures for Einstein like having an antenna installed at his home so he could listen to concerts, but Einstein only granted Oppenheimer a “grudging respect.” Ultimately Oppenheimer assembled a faculty of eccentric, brilliant minds who did not always see eye to eye.

I have attempted to reframe the negative comments about Oppenheimer in a more positive light:

Oppenheimer brought a bold, innovative vision to the Institute, seeking to foster intellectual diversity and dialogue by inviting scholars across disciplines for visiting appointments. Though some were initially skeptical of changes to tradition, Oppenheimer’s intellect and persuasive powers won over many. He aimed to make the Institute a vibrant hub for thinkers from varied backgrounds to exchange ideas, likening it to a medieval monastery glowing with curiosity. Oppenheimer’s plans emphasized flexibility and fresh perspectives over rigid permanence.

While Oppenheimer’s strong leadership ruffled feathers at times, he handled conflict with patience and resilience. His brilliance was apparent, though his unconventional approach was an adjustment for some traditionalists. Overall, Oppie worked tirelessly to enrich the Institute’s intellectual environment. Even in disagreement, Oppenheimer maintained an underlying spirit of respect and unity with his fellow scholars in pursuit of knowledge.

  • Oppenheimer’s leadership as director of the Institute for Advanced Study was controversial, especially among the mathematicians. He tried not to interfere in their work, and increased membership in the math department, but they still opposed many of his non-math appointments.

  • There was tension because mathematicians do their best work young, while scholars in other fields need more seasoning. Mathematicians could judge math candidates but not those in other fields. And they had time for academic politics which older scholars did not.

  • Oppenheimer sometimes lashed out, like calling a mathematician “the most arrogant, bull-headed son-of-a-bitch I ever met.” Some mathematicians thought he deliberately stoked conflicts.

  • Oppenheimer could be fiercely arrogant and abrasive at times, reducing young scholars to tears with biting comments. He didn’t suffer fools gladly.

  • At seminars, he would impatiently hurry speakers along if he already knew the topic, but aggressively question them if he did not agree. This unnerved some speakers.

  • Oppenheimer was seen as an enigma - very private, not showing feelings much, yet capable of intense emotion on rare occasions. He hungered for simple comradeship but often acted superior.

  • In physics he no longer did the hard calculations, disappointing some. He dismissed ideas he initially disagreed with, like Feynman’s work, until persuaded by others.

  • Overall, Oppenheimer’s brilliance and leadership were controversial among the mathematicians, he could be very abrasive, and he puzzled those who knew him as a complex, emotional but detached man.

  • In fall 1948, Oppenheimer returned to Europe for the first time in 19 years, now as a famous physicist. He gave talks and attended conferences, but felt European physics was lagging behind the U.S.

  • Oppenheimer wrote his brother Frank urging him to get a good lawyer, worried about the HUAC hearings targeting communists. He was concerned Frank’s past Communist Party membership would come up.

  • Frank Oppenheimer was building an impressive career as an experimental physicist, doing innovative cosmic ray research. But Robert feared Frank would get caught up in HUAC’s witch hunts.

  • Robert appeared unconcerned about his own radical past, believing his fame would protect him. He openly discussed his leftist activities in the 1930s with Time magazine, which featured him as a “hero” on its cover.

  • Oppenheimer said he had been apolitical before the rise of fascism and unemployed physicists in the 1930s radicalized him. But he claimed to have left politics behind during the war years to focus on physics.

Here are the key points from the excerpt:

  • In 1949, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) launched an investigation into communist infiltration at Berkeley’s Radiation Lab during WWII. Several of Oppenheimer’s former students were subpoenaed, including David Bohm, Rossi Lomanitz, and Joseph Weinberg.

  • Oppenheimer himself was also subpoenaed to testify before HUAC in a closed-door session in June 1949. He appeared cooperative and forthcoming, aiming not to seem defensive.

  • When asked about his former students, Oppenheimer named some as communists but avoided implicating his brother Frank. He repeated the same story about the Chevalier affair that he had told the FBI in 1946.

  • Oppenheimer confirmed various students had been dismissed from the Rad Lab due to suspected communist ties or activities. When asked about his brother’s communist past, Oppenheimer politely refused to answer, and HUAC respected his request.

  • Congressman Nixon said he was “tremendously impressed” with Oppenheimer and happy to have him in his position, marking Oppenheimer’s deference and cooperation with the committee.

  • After testifying before HUAC, Oppenheimer emerged unscathed, but his former students Peters, Bohm, and Lomanitz suffered consequences.

  • Peters was accused in the press of communist sympathies based on leaked testimony from Oppenheimer. Peters denied being a communist and confronted Oppenheimer, who admitted he had made mistakes in his testimony.

  • Oppenheimer wrote a letter retracting parts of his testimony about Peters, allowing Peters to keep his job, but Peters’ career in the U.S. was stymied. He later left for Germany and Denmark.

  • Bohm was suspended from Princeton and later lost his job based on the fallout from the hearings. He was tried for contempt of Congress but acquitted.

  • Lomanitz was fired from his university job and resorted to manual labor for years before finding another teaching position. Despite Oppenheimer’s role, Lomanitz did not harbor resentment toward him.

  • The ordeal showed that while Oppenheimer emerged largely unscathed, his former leftist associations put others at grave professional risk. Some felt Oppenheimer was trying to distance himself from past affiliations out of self-preservation.

  • Oppenheimer vetoed the idea of hiring David Bohm at the Institute for Advanced Study, seeing Bohm as a political liability. He instructed staff to keep Bohm away from him.

  • Despite this, Oppenheimer still wrote Bohm a strong letter of recommendation when he sought a position in Brazil. Bohm believed Oppenheimer had acted as fairly as he could given the circumstances.

  • In June 1949 congressional testimony, Oppenheimer mocked and humiliated Lewis Strauss over a disagreement on exporting radioisotopes. This made a dangerous enemy for Oppenheimer.

  • In June 1949 testimony to HUAC, Frank Oppenheimer admitted to being a former Communist Party member from 1937-1940. He refused to name names of others. As a result, he was dismissed from his professorship at the University of Minnesota.

  • Afterwards, Frank was shocked when Lawrence refused to give him a position at Berkeley, ending their close relationship.

Based on the summary, it seems there were tensions in Robert Oppenheimer’s family life, despite outward appearances of a happy family. Some key points:

  • Oppenheimer relied heavily on his wife Kitty as a confidante and advisor, and she was very involved in his work, but she also had an intense personality that could be draining.

  • Kitty struggled with alcoholism and sometimes had drunken outbursts or scenes. This suggests marital issues.

  • Their friend Verna Hobson, who worked closely with them, said Oppenheimer’s family relationships seemed “terrible” despite his warm outward persona.

  • Kitty’s drinking buddy Pat Sherr recounted how Kitty would show up at her house to drink for hours, suggesting loneliness and marital problems on Kitty’s part.

  • The “constant state of hives” and being “tensed up all the time” points to anxiety and stress in Kitty’s life.

  • Despite photographed happy family scenes, the reality was a troubled home life and strained marriage behind closed doors. Oppenheimer confided and relied on Kitty, yet her emotional issues also put stress on him and the family.

  • Kitty Oppenheimer struggled with alcoholism and was prone to accidents likely exacerbated by her drinking. Robert was aware of her problems but resignedly accepted them, trying to support and protect her as best he could.

  • Kitty had intense but short-lived friendships, often turning on friends after initial intimacy. Some saw her as cruel, but she was also insecure and struggled to fit into Princeton high society.

  • Her role as director’s wife was difficult for the free-spirited Kitty. She relied heavily on Robert emotionally. He was devoted to her, though some friends felt the love was not reciprocal.

  • The Oppenheimers rejected much of Princeton social norms and formalities. They were seen as arrogant and their unconventional entertaining style irritated some faculty.

  • Kitty’s unhappiness and drinking likely stemmed from inner turmoil. Robert understood but did not try to change her, acting as her “doctor, nurse and psychiatrist.” Her dependence on him and adoration was evident, though views differ on whether Robert truly loved and needed her in return.

Here are the key points from the summary:

  • Kitty and Robert Oppenheimer had very different temperaments - Kitty was passionate and emotive while Robert was detached and aloof. This caused clashes in their marriage.

  • Kitty was intensely jealous of Robert’s relationships with other women, even though she had affairs of her own. She resented the spotlight on Robert.

  • Kitty felt Robert had no sense of fun and was too fastidious. However, their differences were also a source of mutual attraction initially.

  • By the time they moved to Princeton, their marriage was characterized by mutual dependency despite its unhealthiness.

  • Friends observed that their children, Peter and Toni, suffered from having such problematic parents. Robert was loving but passive, while Kitty nagged and criticized Peter but doted on Toni.

  • When Toni contracted polio, the family sailed around the Virgin Islands over Christmas for her recovery. Robert fell in love with St. John island.

  • Though their marriage was volatile, Kitty had supportive friends. Robert endured through aloofness and detachment.

  • In August 1949, the Soviets secretly exploded their first atomic bomb, sending shockwaves through the US government. Oppenheimer had long predicted the end of the US atomic monopoly.

  • Oppenheimer hoped the Soviet bomb would spur efforts to put nuclear technology under international control, but feared an overreaction by the US government. He thought excessive secrecy was irrational and counterproductive.

  • In response, the US rapidly expanded its atomic stockpile and launched a crash program to develop the hydrogen “Super” bomb, which Oppenheimer had long been skeptical of due to its horrific destructive potential.

  • As early as 1945, Oppenheimer had advised against pursuing the Super bomb for ethical reasons, though this was not made public. He and others saw it as a weapon of mass indiscriminate killing.

  • In October 1949, Oppenheimer and Conant discussed their opposition to the Super bomb, with Conant saying it would be built “over my dead body.” They feared the profound impact this new horrific weapon could have on national security and ethics.

  • In October 1949, Oppenheimer and other scientists on the General Advisory Committee (GAC) debated whether the U.S. should pursue development of the hydrogen bomb (H-bomb), also known as the “Super.”

  • Oppenheimer had reservations about the H-bomb on technical, policy, and moral grounds. He discussed his concerns with James Conant, who was staunchly opposed to the H-bomb.

  • At the GAC meeting, Conant and others argued against the H-bomb on moral grounds, seeing it as a dangerous new level of destructive technology. Oppenheimer did not express his views until others had spoken.

  • The GAC reached a consensus advising against an accelerated H-bomb program, citing scientific, technical, and moral reasons. Though not unanimous, they saw the H-bomb as a threat to humanity and security.

  • Oppenheimer and Conant felt scientists could not just make technical assessments but must consider moral implications of weapons that could annihilate life. This showed the evolution of Oppenheimer’s thinking since his wartime role in the atomic bomb program.

In summary, Oppenheimer and the GAC opposed pursuing the hydrogen bomb in 1949 based on its extreme destructiveness and moral implications, marking an important shift in Oppenheimer’s perspective from his earlier wartime stance.

  • J. Robert Oppenheimer and the General Advisory Committee (GAC) opposed development of the “Super” hydrogen bomb, arguing it would be too destructive to serve any legitimate military purpose. They recommended not pursuing it and instead focusing on smaller, tactical nuclear weapons.

  • Despite this, supporters of the Super like Edward Teller and Lewis Strauss lobbied politicians like Senator McMahon, who thought war with the Soviets was inevitable and the US should build the strongest weapons possible.

  • Oppenheimer tried to persuade officials like Acheson of his view, aided by George Kennan who shared his perspective. Kennan drafted speeches arguing against the Super, but they were never delivered as most officials favored it.

  • Kennan wrote a long memo arguing the bomb was seen as a dangerous panacea for the Soviet threat rather than a last resort, and echoing Oppenheimer’s view that it would not deter the Soviets and would only inspire an arms race. But his arguments did not sway policymakers bent on building the most powerful weapons possible.

  • Despite the GAC’s opposition, political pressure led Truman to ultimately approve development of the hydrogen bomb, overriding the scientific advice against it. This exemplified the beginning of an arms race mentality.

  • George Kennan, head of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, wrote a lengthy memo arguing against developing the hydrogen bomb (the “Super”). He believed it would accelerate the nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union in a dangerous way.

  • Kennan’s views aligned closely with J. Robert Oppenheimer’s opposition to the H-bomb. They both felt the U.S. should not make nuclear weapons the centerpiece of defense policy, but should rely more on conventional forces and diplomacy to counter the Soviets.

  • However, Secretary of State Dean Acheson and others rejected Kennan’s advice. Domestic political pressures made Truman feel he had no choice but to approve a crash program to develop the H-bomb.

  • In January 1950, Truman publicly announced the H-bomb program despite objections from Oppenheimer, Kennan and others. This led to a massive buildup of the U.S. nuclear arsenal over the next decades.

  • Oppenheimer considered resigning in protest but stayed on as an adviser to avoid public debate that the administration felt would undermine national security. The H-bomb decision marked a clear defeat for Oppenheimer’s views and a turning point toward nuclear arms race escalation.

  • After the decision to build the hydrogen bomb, Oppenheimer retreated to Princeton, disheartened. He and George Kennan bonded over their opposition to nuclear weapons and the strategy of deterrence.

  • Oppenheimer brought Kennan to the Institute for Advanced Study, despite objections from some faculty. Kennan later left to serve briefly as ambassador to the Soviet Union.

  • Oppenheimer spoke out against excessive government secrecy regarding nuclear weapons, arguing it hindered public understanding. This angered officials like Lewis Strauss.

  • On the General Advisory Committee, Oppenheimer criticized proposals for nuclear-powered aircraft and submarines. He warned about safety issues with civilian nuclear power.

  • Oppenheimer and other GAC scientists were uneasy with the military’s expanding nuclear targeting plans. Oppenheimer tried to dampen public expectations about potential applications of nuclear technology.

  • His outspokenness against the arms buildup made Oppenheimer increasingly suspect among defense officials and industry advocates. He was seen as an obstacle to their nuclear ambitions.

  • Lewis Strauss remained Oppenheimer’s most dangerous political enemy, harboring resentment over past disagreements and convinced that Oppenheimer was trying to slow work on the hydrogen bomb. Strauss investigated Oppenheimer’s past associations and communicated with allies like Kenneth Nichols to find potentially incriminating information.

  • The confession of physicist Klaus Fuchs to spying reignited suspicions about Oppenheimer’s loyalty due to his past leftist associations. Strauss and FBI director Hoover saw the Fuchs case as validating their concerns about Oppenheimer.

  • Oppenheimer testified before Congress about his naïve communist associations in the 1930s, which he had renounced by the end of the war. Afterwards, AEC staffer William Borden began viewing Oppenheimer with more suspicion.

  • Borden and Strauss shared concerns about Oppenheimer’s influence and loyalty. At a Congressional hearing after the Fuchs case, FBI director Hoover amplified suspicions about Oppenheimer’s past communist ties and postwar opposition to the hydrogen bomb.

In summary, revelations about Soviet spying focused hostile scrutiny on Oppenheimer from political enemies who questioned his loyalty, despite his own testimony renouncing his past leftist associations. This foreshadowed greater efforts to remove him from influence over nuclear policy.

Here are the key points about Senator McMahon, Congressman Henry “Scoop” Jackson, and their relationship with J. Robert Oppenheimer:

  • Senator Brien McMahon (D-Conn.) and Congressman Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D-Wash.) were important figures in the debate over developing the hydrogen bomb in the early 1950s.

  • Both were ardent Cold Warriors and strong advocates of building the H-bomb to maintain U.S. nuclear superiority over the Soviet Union.

  • They were alarmed by Oppenheimer’s opposition to the H-bomb and his arguments that it would fuel an arms race. McMahon and Jackson saw Oppenheimer as “naïve” about national security.

  • The two congressmen learned from FBI director J. Edgar Hoover about security allegations against Oppenheimer, including the approach from Haakon Chevalier in 1943. This further fueled their suspicions about Oppenheimer’s loyalties.

  • Oppenheimer’s stance against the H-bomb and advocacy for tactical nuclear weapons was seen by McMahon, Jackson, and allies as undermining the Strategic Air Command’s nuclear capabilities.

  • Jackson in particular felt Oppenheimer’s actions confirmed his belief that scientists could be “naive” on issues of national security and should not determine policy.

In summary, McMahon and Jackson emerged as forceful H-bomb advocates who increasingly distrusted Oppenheimer due to the security allegations against him, viewing him as dangerously misguided on nuclear strategy. Their opposition helped turn opinion in Washington against Oppenheimer.

  • In 1947, Paul Crouch claimed to have seen Oppenheimer at a Communist Party meeting in 1941, but evidence showed Oppenheimer was in New Mexico at the time. Crouch later proved to be an unreliable informant.

  • In 1951, William Borden and Lewis Strauss discussed suspicions about Oppenheimer based on Crouch’s allegations. They concluded there was no evidence to confirm Crouch’s claims.

  • That same year, Edward Teller went to the FBI and accused Oppenheimer of hindering the H-bomb program, though Teller provided no evidence.

  • Air Force officials like David Griggs also viewed Oppenheimer with suspicion and wanted to limit his influence.

  • Oppenheimer opposed expanding the nuclear arsenal and questioned the sanity of Air Force war planning. He advocated for tactical nuclear weapons to provide alternatives to strategic bombing of cities.

  • Borden and Strauss remained convinced Oppenheimer opposed the H-bomb out of hidden motives despite his stated positions. They saw him as an obstacle to be removed.

Based on the summary, it seems there were concerns within the US Air Force in the early 1950s about the conclusions and recommendations of two classified reports - Project Vista and the Lincoln Summer Study Group - regarding nuclear weapons strategy.

The key points appear to be:

  • Project Vista, authored in part by Robert Oppenheimer, recommended giving priority to small, tactical nuclear weapons over large thermonuclear “city-buster” bombs. It also suggested the US adopt a “no first use” policy regarding nuclear weapons.

  • Air Force officials like General Curtis LeMay were alarmed by these recommendations, as they favored the development of large strategic nuclear weapons and bombers to deliver them. They saw Project Vista as undermining this.

  • The Lincoln Study Group recommended converting much of the Air Force’s bomber fleet into interceptors for air defense. The Air Force opposed this as it would divert resources away from their offensive bomber forces.

  • Oppenheimer was seen as influential in both reports, leading Air Force officials like General Thomas Power and Secretary Thomas Finletter to view him with suspicion and question his loyalty. They believed he was undermining the Air Force’s goal of strategic nuclear superiority.

  • There were rumors that Oppenheimer had leaked details of the Lincoln Study to journalists, further angering Air Force officials.

In summary, there were tensions between Oppenheimer and the Air Force over nuclear strategy recommendations that were seen as detrimental to the Air Force’s bombing-focused vision of nuclear war. This contributed to suspicions about Oppenheimer’s loyalties.

  • By 1952, Oppenheimer was frustrated with Washington policymaking and resigned from the General Advisory Committee (GAC) on nuclear weapons. However, he remained a consultant for the AEC and joined a State Department panel on disarmament.

  • On this panel, Oppenheimer and others proposed a moratorium on testing thermonuclear weapons to avoid stimulating a nuclear arms race. However, this proposal was rejected and the first H-bomb was tested in late 1952.

  • Oppenheimer felt current nuclear policies were dangerous and promoted ideas like announcing a no-first-use policy and reaching an international agreement to stop testing thermonuclear weapons. But these proposals gained little traction in Washington.

  • Oppenheimer worked with McGeorge Bundy on a report warning that without moderating the nuclear arms race, civilization itself was in peril. But the report had little impact as Eisenhower took office.

  • Some were already turning against Oppenheimer, seeing him as an obstacle to nuclear weapons development. His influence in policymaking was waning despite his efforts to promote arms control.

  • By the spring of 1950, Oppenheimer believed the FBI, HUAC, and Justice Department were closing in on him. The FBI interviewed him twice about his past Communist affiliations. He was worried about being linked to Joe Weinberg, who had been identified by HUAC as “Scientist X,” a suspected Soviet spy.

  • Weinberg admitted discussing the atomic bomb project with a Communist leader in 1943, but denied espionage. He felt pressured and scared he might crack under FBI interrogation. But he refused to implicate Oppenheimer to protect him.

  • In 1950 and 1952, grand juries weighed perjury charges against Weinberg based on weak evidence (illegal FBI wiretaps, unreliable testimony). Weinberg refused to cooperate and charges were dropped.

  • Oppenheimer denied Communist affiliations when questioned again by Senate staffers in 1952, including hosting a Communist meeting in 1941 alleged by informants the Crouches. The interview was adversarial, with Oppenheimer’s lawyer demanding transcripts.

  • Oppenheimer and his lawyer felt the Crouches’ allegations were still a threat. As Weinberg faced indictment, Oppenheimer went to Washington believing he might soon be targeted and his career ruined.

  • Oppenheimer was interviewed by Justice Department lawyers about allegations by Paul Crouch that Oppenheimer had hosted a Communist meeting at his home in 1941. Oppenheimer denied the allegations and said he did not know Crouch.

  • Crouch was then brought into the room and claimed to recognize Oppenheimer as his host. Oppenheimer continued to deny knowing Crouch or hosting such a meeting.

  • The Justice Department did not include the Crouch allegations in the indictment of Joseph Weinberg for perjury. However, they later said Oppenheimer would have to testify at Weinberg’s trial.

  • Oppenheimer’s lawyers lobbied to keep him off the witness stand, arguing it would ruin his reputation. The Justice Department eventually agreed to drop the Crouch allegations from the trial.

  • Weinberg was acquitted, but the judge disapproved of the verdict and condemned the Communist activity at Berkeley in the 1930s-40s.

  • Oppenheimer was relieved that the Crouch allegations did not become public through the trial and hoped the issue was resolved.

  • Oppenheimer had long felt a sense of foreboding about his future, triggered by reading Henry James’ short story “The Beast in the Jungle.” He saw parallels between the story’s protagonist being haunted by a premonition of impending doom, and his own uneasy position after the Hiroshima bombing.

  • Oppenheimer’s main adversary was Lewis Strauss, chairman of the AEC. Their enmity grew after Oppenheimer asked Strauss to have the Institute pay his legal bills for the Weinberg case, which Strauss refused.

  • In February 1953, Oppenheimer gave a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations outlining the nuclear arms race. He spoke about the U.S. stockpile and war plans, and urged more candor about nuclear weapons, though he was constrained by secrecy.

  • The speech was provocative given the political climate, with Oppenheimer under attack from political enemies. He likely knew it would anger figures like Strauss, but gave it anyway, perhaps seeing the “beast” of his downfall on the horizon.

  • In a 1953 speech, Oppenheimer called for more openness and candor regarding nuclear weapons, arguing that secrecy was leading to ignorance and dangerous assumptions about nuclear war. He stated that the U.S. and Soviet Union were like “two scorpions in a bottle” who could annihilate each other.

  • Oppenheimer’s speech alarmed some in the government who favored secrecy, including AEC chairman Lewis Strauss. Strauss met with the FBI and expressed concerns about Oppenheimer’s past associations and his opposition to the hydrogen bomb.

  • Strauss then lobbied President Eisenhower against Oppenheimer, telling him Oppenheimer could not be trusted. This turned Eisenhower, who had been impressed by Oppenheimer’s views, against him.

  • Strauss orchestrated a public smear campaign against Oppenheimer in Luce-owned magazines like Time and Fortune, portraying him as disloyal and trying to undermine U.S. nuclear strategy. This further discredited Oppenheimer.

  • Oppenheimer’s calls for openness and warnings about mutual annihilation in nuclear war threatened the prevailing views favoring secrecy and massive retaliation. This led Strauss and others to work to marginalize and discredit Oppenheimer as a security risk.

Here are the key points from the passage:

  • Lewis Strauss, now chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, was determined to end Oppenheimer’s influence. He believed Oppenheimer’s calls for candor about nuclear weapons were dangerous.

  • Strauss worked behind the scenes to undermine Oppenheimer, including collaborating anonymously on a critical magazine article about him.

  • When Oppenheimer published an essay calling for candor about nuclear weapons, Strauss complained to Eisenhower. Though Eisenhower initially agreed with some of Oppenheimer’s ideas, Strauss was able to turn him against candor.

  • Strauss and FBI director Hoover met and agreed Oppenheimer should be investigated, but wanted to avoid a premature public inquiry that McCarthy was contemplating.

  • Oppenheimer went on a trip to Brazil, unaware of the growing campaign against him back in the US. Strauss used this time to prepare to finally end Oppenheimer’s influence.

In summary, Strauss systematically worked to discredit Oppenheimer and plotted with Hoover to build a case against him, in order to remove him as an influential voice on nuclear policy.

  • Lewis Strauss, the new chair of the Atomic Energy Commission, conspired with FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and AEC staffer William Borden to end Robert Oppenheimer’s influence over nuclear policy.

  • Strauss was suspicious of Oppenheimer’s past leftist ties and believed he had delayed the hydrogen bomb program. Borden shared these concerns.

  • Strauss and Borden coordinated accessing and reviewing Oppenheimer’s lengthy FBI security file over several months in 1953 to build a case against him.

  • Strauss was alarmed when Oppenheimer said he had a White House meeting, putting Oppenheimer under FBI surveillance during his Washington visit.

  • Meanwhile, Oppenheimer was invited to give prestigious BBC lectures on science and philosophy. He spoke obscurely on the new physics but briefly criticized communism’s false community.

  • Strauss told Hoover he hoped to soon “terminate all AEC dealings with Oppenheimer,” making clear his intent to remove Oppenheimer entirely.

Based on the summary, it seems the key points are:

  • Oppenheimer, having been attracted to communism in the 1930s, became disillusioned with it by the 1950s. He gave lectures promoting openness and warned against the dangers of secrecy and enforced conformity. Though his views had changed, his commitment to social justice remained constant.

  • Oppenheimer had dinner with his old friend Chevalier in Paris in late 1953. Their friendship would soon come under scrutiny.

  • Around this time, Oppenheimer’s opponents in Washington, including Strauss, were gathering information from his security file to build a case against him. Borden wrote a letter accusing Oppenheimer of likely being a Soviet agent.

  • The political climate was one of heightened fear about communism and retaliation against alleged communists. Oppenheimer’s association with Chevalier would become a key part of the case against him.

  • In late 1953, J. Robert Oppenheimer’s security clearance was put under review due to new allegations from a former government official, William Borden. Borden accused Oppenheimer of Communist affiliations.

  • President Eisenhower was initially skeptical of the accusations but ordered a formal review under pressure from McCarthyism and fears that Oppenheimer was a security risk.

  • Eisenhower’s directive cut off Oppenheimer’s access to classified information. Oppenheimer’s friend Admiral Parsons was outraged and planned to appeal to the President, but died of a heart attack before he could.

  • AEC chairman Lewis Strauss choreographed Oppenheimer’s review, planning to present him with allegations and give him the choice of quietly leaving or appealing the clearance suspension.

  • When Oppenheimer’s lawyer Herbert Marks suggested the matter would embarrass Vice President Nixon, Strauss became suspicious Marks was trying blackmail.

  • Strauss informed Oppenheimer of the suspension of his clearance and the review proceedings. Oppenheimer acknowledged he knew review was coming but professed ignorance of Marks’ actions.

In summary, due to suspicions raised by Borden’s letter, Eisenhower ordered a formal review of Oppenheimer’s clearance despite doubts on the accusations. This led to the dramatic suspension of his access pending an administrative hearing, over the objections of his allies like Parsons.

  • After Oppenheimer informed Strauss that he would not resign, Kenneth Nichols of the AEC set in motion an “extraordinary American inquisition” against Oppenheimer.

  • On Christmas Eve, FBI agents seized Oppenheimer’s remaining classified papers.

  • Oppenheimer received a letter of formal charges from the AEC questioning his loyalty and accusing him of opposing the hydrogen bomb and delaying its development.

  • The charges included old allegations about Oppenheimer’s leftist associations in the 1930s and the Chevalier incident, despite these having been previously reviewed and dismissed.

  • The charges reflected McCarthyite hysteria and equated dissent with disloyalty. Oppenheimer would be judged by an AEC panel appointed by Strauss.

  • Oppenheimer’s secretary Verna Hobson realized something was wrong and gave Oppenheimer a thoughtful gift, which he appreciated.

  • Oppenheimer told Hobson he was in trouble but did not specify the details. He was clearly distraught about the situation.

  • After receiving the charges against him, Oppenheimer worked feverishly to assemble a legal team to prepare his defense. He first consulted with his friends Herb Marks and Joe Volpe, who disagreed on the type of lawyer he needed.

  • Oppenheimer and Marks approached several high-profile, politically-connected lawyers like John O’Brian and John W. Davis, but they were unavailable. Oppenheimer eventually retained Lloyd Garrison, a respected liberal lawyer but one lacking trial experience.

  • As Oppenheimer’s lawyers began preparing his defense, word of the impending hearing leaked around Washington. Strauss faced pressure from scientists to appoint a board that would “whitewash” Oppenheimer, but Strauss refused, intent on controlling the process.

  • Strauss undermined Oppenheimer’s defense by denying his lawyers security clearances to see classified material while allowing the hearing board to review raw FBI files. He also authorized illegal FBI wiretaps of Oppenheimer’s conversations with his lawyers.

  • Strauss saw the case as crucial to prevent “left-wingers” from gaining control of the atomic energy program. He hand-picked Roger Robb, an aggressive prosecutor, to present the case against Oppenheimer. Robb had conservative political views and close ties with the FBI.

  • Overall, Strauss rigged the rules to assure Oppenheimer’s influence would be eliminated, treating the hearing more like a prosecution than an inquiry into the facts.

  • Lewis Strauss was able to arrange a security clearance for Roger Robb, the prosecutor he had chosen, in just eight days in February 1954.

  • Strauss provided Robb with information from his own notes on Oppenheimer’s file that could be used to undermine potential defense witnesses. The FBI also gave Robb access to its investigative reports on Oppenheimer.

  • Strauss handpicked conservative men - Gordon Gray, Thomas Morgan, and Ward Evans - to serve as judges on the AEC security review board. They were chosen because Strauss expected they would be suspicious of Oppenheimer once his past left-wing ties were revealed.

  • Oppenheimer worked intensely on drafting his response to the AEC charges, going through many drafts and revisions. However, he confided to friends like Bethe that he expected to lose.

  • Teller told Oppenheimer’s lawyers that while he disagreed with Oppenheimer on the hydrogen bomb, he did not doubt his patriotism. But he disliked Oppenheimer intensely.

  • Oppenheimer’s secretary Verna Hobson and his wife Kitty both thought the legal team was being too passive in preparing his defense. Kitty in particular wanted a more aggressive fight.

  • Einstein advised Oppenheimer that the attack was so outrageous he should resign, recalling his experience with similar persecution in Nazi Germany. But Oppenheimer chose to respond to the charges instead.

  • The security hearing against Oppenheimer convened on April 12, 1954 in a makeshift courtroom in Washington D.C.

  • The three AEC board members - Gordon Gray, Ward Evans, and Thomas Morgan - sat at the front with classified FBI documents about Oppenheimer, which the defense team had not seen. This immediately skewed the proceedings against Oppenheimer.

  • Oppenheimer’s defense team included Lloyd Garrison, Herbert Marks, Samuel Silverman, and Allan Ecker. The AEC’s lawyers were Roger Robb and Carl Rolander.

  • Oppenheimer and his wife Kitty arrived late, as she had injured her leg. The board seemed irritated by the delay.

  • Gray spent the morning reading aloud the AEC’s letter of charges against Oppenheimer and Oppenheimer’s reply. The charges included being associated with communists, employing communists, and delaying the hydrogen bomb program.

  • Ecker felt the proceedings were unfairly stacked against Oppenheimer from the start, as the board had classified FBI documents about him that the defense could not access or challenge.

  • The New York Times published a front-page story by James Reston revealing details of the charges against Oppenheimer and his suspension, including allegations about his left-wing affiliations in the 1930s. This polarized public opinion, with liberals outraged and conservatives using it to fuel accusations.

  • The charges against Oppenheimer included friendships with communists like Haakon Chevalier; contributing money to communist causes; failing to promptly report Chevalier’s 1943 proposal to funnel information about the Radiation Lab; and allegations from FBI wiretaps that communist officials had identified Oppenheimer as a secret member of the party in 1942-45.

  • Oppenheimer acknowledged the friendships and financial contributions but denied being a communist or knowing most of the people named. He could not mount a defense against the wiretap allegations as the transcripts were not shared with his lawyers.

  • Chairman Gray was angry the story had leaked, blaming Oppenheimer’s lawyers, unaware it was Strauss who gave the green light to publish. Strauss wanted to get ahead of potential leaks by McCarthy and control the narrative.

  • The charges covered Oppenheimer’s behavior in the 1930s which, while not unusual for a liberal supporting civil rights and unions, fueled McCarthyist accusations. The inquiry questioned Oppenheimer under oath, beginning his grilling.

  • Robert Oppenheimer’s testimony before the AEC loyalty board was cross-examined aggressively by AEC attorney Robb.

  • Robb sought to catch Oppenheimer in contradictions and imply he had irresponsibly directed Los Alamos.

  • Robb confronted Oppenheimer about his brother Frank’s communist ties and his own “fellow traveler” past.

  • Oppenheimer admitted to lying to security agents Pash and Johnson about the Chevalier incident in 1943.

  • Robb had transcripts of the 1943 interviews that Oppenheimer did not have access to, putting him at a disadvantage.

  • Oppenheimer’s “I was an idiot” comment was meant to clarify his ambiguous 1943 statements, not a moment of despair as Robb later claimed.

  • Overall, it was a humiliating day of testimony for Oppenheimer as Robb relentlessly grilled him on his past associations and statements. The cross-examination was a key part of the effort by Robb and Strauss to destroy Oppenheimer’s reputation.

Here is a summary of the key points from the excerpt:

  • During Oppenheimer’s security hearing, his interrogator Robb reads selectively from a transcript of Oppenheimer’s 1943 interview with intelligence agents Pash and Lansdale. In the transcript, Oppenheimer told an elaborate story about several scientists being approached to share information with the Soviets, which he now admits was a fabrication.

  • Oppenheimer struggles to explain why he told such an embellished story, suggesting he wanted to convey the seriousness of the situation but handled it badly by fabricating details. He admits he should have told the full, accurate story from the start.

  • His lawyer Garrison tries unsuccessfully to get a copy of the transcript being quoted from. Oppenheimer ends up accepting Robb’s interpretation that he told “a whole fabrication and tissue of lies.”

  • Later Oppenheimer provides a more nuanced explanation, saying he wanted to tip off intelligence agents about Eltenton without revealing his intermediary was Chevalier. When pressed for details, he fabricated a more elaborate story but should have been truthful from the start.

  • The next topic Robb moves to is Oppenheimer’s love affair with Jean Tatlock, clearly aimed at humiliating him further.

Based on the summary, the key points regarding General Groves’ testimony are:

  • Groves praised Oppenheimer’s wartime performance at Los Alamos and said he would be “amazed” if Oppenheimer consciously committed a disloyal act.

  • On the Chevalier incident, Groves said there were many versions and he was becoming confused. His understanding was that an approach was made and Oppenheimer knew about it.

  • Groves speculated that Oppenheimer may have wanted to protect his brother Frank, who “might be involved” in the chain of communication in the Chevalier affair. However, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that Frank was actually involved.

  • Groves’ testimony about Frank’s possible involvement appears to originate from hearsay in Oppenheimer’s FBI files, not from direct knowledge. FBI agents themselves acknowledged there was no evidence that Frank was approached or that Oppenheimer ever reported Frank’s involvement.

  • Nevertheless, Groves’ conjecture about Frank further undermined Oppenheimer’s credibility and deepened interest in the Chevalier affair. It put Groves in a compromising position where in 1954 he felt he could not support renewing Oppenheimer’s security clearance.

In summary, while there is no evidence Frank Oppenheimer was involved in the Chevalier incident, Groves’ speculation to the contrary during his testimony further damaged Oppenheimer’s credibility and the case for renewing his security clearance.

  • In December 1953, FBI agents interviewed General Groves, John Lansdale, and William Consodine about Oppenheimer and the Chevalier affair.

  • Lansdale and Consodine claimed that in 1943, Groves had told them Frank Oppenheimer was Chevalier’s contact, based on what Oppenheimer had confessed to Groves.

  • However, Groves himself had doubts about Frank’s involvement and was confused about what exactly Oppenheimer had told him.

  • The most likely explanation is that Groves told Lansdale and Consodine about his conversation with Oppenheimer without clarifying his doubts about Frank’s role.

  • By all accounts, it was Chevalier who approached Robert Oppenheimer, not Frank. Groves appears to have misunderstood or misremembered what Oppenheimer told him.

  • Groves felt compromised for having promised Oppenheimer not to reveal Frank’s alleged involvement to the FBI. This may have been used as leverage by Hoover and Strauss to pressure Groves to testify against Oppenheimer.

  • However, Groves remained loyal to Oppenheimer and unapologetic about his promise, though he was embarrassed that the FBI discovered it.

  • After Oppenheimer’s testimony concluded, his lawyers called over two dozen defense witnesses to vouch for his character and loyalty, including famous scientists, politicians, and businessmen.

  • One notable witness was John Lansdale, the chief of security for the Manhattan Project during the war. As the key security officer at Los Alamos, his testimony in support of Oppenheimer should have carried great weight.

  • Under cross-examination by Robb, Lansdale said he “strongly” felt Oppenheimer was loyal and added he was “extremely disturbed by the current hysteria of the times, [of] which this seems to be a manifestation.” This was a criticism of the climate of fear and suspicion driving the hearings.

  • Other prominent witnesses like Hans Bethe, George Kennan, and Vannevar Bush spoke in Oppenheimer’s defense and questioned the need for the hearing at all.

  • However, the witnesses’ supportive testimony did not seem to sway the views of Strauss or the Gray Board members, who appeared to have already made up their minds against Oppenheimer.

  • The defense witnesses criticized the tone of the hearings as more like an adversarial trial than an impartial review. Oppenheimer’s treatment seemed disproportionate given his scientific stature and previous government service.

  • In summary, Oppenheimer presented a parade of eminent witnesses to defend him, but the hostile climate did not allow their testimony to override the momentum against Oppenheimer set in motion by his opponents like Strauss and Teller.

  • General Lansdale defended Oppenheimer, saying the hysteria over communism was dangerous. He established his own anti-communist credentials but said associating Oppenheimer’s 1940s associations with disloyalty today was “a manifestation of hysteria.”

  • John J. McCloy also defended Oppenheimer, questioning the legitimacy of the hearing itself. He argued Oppenheimer’s theoretical thinking was invaluable despite any past political immaturity.

  • McCloy and Robb had an exchange comparing Oppenheimer to a bank manager who knew robbers, illustrating the security dilemma.

  • Oppenheimer’s character witnesses like George Kennan and David Lilienthal spoke eloquently in his defense, underscoring his intellect and value to the country.

  • Lilienthal was blindsided by documents he hadn’t seen, angering him about the tactics.

  • Isidor Rabi defiantly defended Oppenheimer, arguing a man should be judged by his actions not associations. His testimony stood out as memorable and uncompromising.

Here is a summary of the key points from the middle section of the hearing transcripts:

  • Several prominent scientists like Isidor Rabi and Vannevar Bush testified in strong support of Oppenheimer, praising his contributions to the atomic bomb project and criticizing the nature of the hearing. They argued Oppenheimer was being unfairly persecuted for expressing dissenting views on the hydrogen bomb.

  • Bush in particular criticized the poorly written charges brought against Oppenheimer, saying the hearing should have focused only on any clear evidence of wrongdoing, not just differences of opinion. He warned that the country was in a “severe state” if someone could be punished merely for expressing unpopular opinions.

  • Kitty Oppenheimer testified about her past communist affiliations in a calm, forthright manner. She drew a distinction between the Communist Party in the U.S. and the Soviet Union’s party, saying she now realized they were linked.

  • Johnny von Neumann, despite disagreeing with Oppenheimer on the hydrogen bomb, testified he was still a loyal friend and colleague. He dismissed the Chevalier incident as irrelevant and handled the hypothetical security questions in an evasive, almost mocking manner.

  • The tactics of the prosecution, especially Robb’s cross-examinations, were perceived by some witnesses as hostile, reflecting the tense atmosphere in the hearings. Oppenheimer himself seemed at times to be playing the role of political martyr.

Here are the key points from the passage:

  • At the Oppenheimer security hearing, his lawyer Robb announced he would not disclose his witness list to Oppenheimer’s team in advance. Oppenheimer had disclosed his full witness list at the start. Robb claimed this was to prevent “pressure” on potential witnesses, but it seemed a transparent rationalization.

  • Ernest Lawrence was expected to testify against Oppenheimer but fell ill and did not appear. However, Robb presented Lawrence’s prior interview transcript where he concluded Oppenheimer showed bad judgment and should not advise policy again. Oppenheimer’s team could not challenge this unseen testimony.

  • Edward Teller met with the prosecutor Robb before testifying. Robb showed him part of Oppenheimer’s testimony where he admitted to a “cock and bull story”, which made Teller more willing to testify against him.

  • In his testimony, Teller said he did not believe Oppenheimer disloyal, but his actions were confused and complicated. He said he would “feel that I would like to see the vital interests of this country in hands which I understand better.” This was enough for the prosecution.

  • Other scientists shunned Teller afterwards for testifying against Oppenheimer.

  • Kitty Oppenheimer was recalled and stood by her claim that Oppenheimer was not involved with the Communist Party aside from donations, though the chairman challenged her on specific donation dates.

Based on the summary, it seems that after the hearings ended, Oppenheimer returned home feeling tired and irritable as he awaited the board’s judgment. He and his wife Kitty watched the televised Army-McCarthy hearings, which reminded Oppenheimer of the unfair nature of his own hearings.

Gordon Gray, the chairman of the board, felt the hearings had been fair, despite Oppenheimer’s lawyers not having access to some classified documents. Gray was shocked when board member Dr. Evans drafted a dissent supporting Oppenheimer, as Evans had previously expressed anti-Semitic views that Gray thought would predispose him against Oppenheimer.

  • After returning from Chicago, Dr. Evans had changed his views and no longer believed the charges against Oppenheimer. The FBI suspected someone had pressured Evans to change his position.

  • Strauss and Robb panicked when they learned of Evans’ reversal. They had gone to great lengths to try to ensure a guilty verdict against Oppenheimer.

  • Fearing Evans would sway the other panel members, Strauss and Robb called the FBI and urged Hoover to intervene with the panel. However, Hoover refused, seeing this as improper.

  • The Gray Board voted 2-1 that Oppenheimer was a security risk, though a loyal citizen. Evans dissented, arguing the old evidence did not warrant overturning the 1947 clearance.

  • Strauss worried Evans’ dissent could sway the AEC commissioners, so general manager Nichols sent a lengthy letter casting doubt on Oppenheimer’s loyalty and twisting the facts.

  • Nichols now argued Oppenheimer had been a Communist and lied about the Chevalier incident. He shifted focus away from the hydrogen bomb disagreements.

  • Essentially, after failing to get the verdict they wanted, Strauss and Robb used underhanded methods to try to influence the final outcome against Oppenheimer.

  • After the Gray Board’s split decision, AEC General Manager Nichols wrote a letter to the Commissioners presenting an entirely new interpretation that Oppenheimer had lied in the 1954 hearings to protect his brother Frank.

  • Nichols introduced this new theory without any new evidence, suppressing the fact that evidence from Eltenton actually confirmed Oppenheimer’s 1946 account.

  • Oppenheimer’s lawyers were not allowed to see or respond to Nichols’ letter before the Commissioners made their final decision.

  • Chairman Strauss lobbied the other Commissioners intensely, likely using political pressure and job offers, eventually securing a 4-1 vote against Oppenheimer.

  • Commissioner Smyth, the lone dissenter, worked diligently on a dissenting opinion but had little time due to the majority completely rewriting their opinion at the last minute.

  • The final majority opinion focused on Oppenheimer’s “defects of character” rather than the hydrogen bomb issue. His security clearance was revoked the day before it expired.

  • Strauss had the damaging parts of the transcript highlighted for reporters, leading to sensationalized media coverage embarrassing Oppenheimer. The verdict was hailed by conservative publications.

Here is a summary of the key events:

  • The Oppenheimers received many letters after the verdict, including supportive ones from friends, abusive ones from cranks, and anguished ones from close associates.

  • The verdict destroyed Oppenheimer’s reputation and government career. Friends like Jane Wilson expressed disgust at the “ugly little comedies” that had played out.

  • Oppenheimer tried to make light of it and reassure friends, but was deeply shaken. The trial made him feel his life’s work had been for nothing.

  • Many scientists signed petitions protesting the verdict. Oppenheimer became a martyr figure, which only enhanced his fame.

  • The trial signified the triumph of McCarthyism and dealt a blow to scientists’ ability to dissent. It narrowed what they could say publicly.

  • Oppenheimer’s liberal views also implicated liberalism, making it dangerous to challenge nuclear policy. The trial narrowed the public forum of debate.

  • So while Oppenheimer was the victim, the implications were far-reaching for scientists, liberals, and open discourse in the early Cold War period. The verdict achieved what his opponents wanted - to destroy him professionally and politically.

  • After the security hearing, Oppenheimer was devastated but displayed remarkable equanimity. He tried to trivialize it as just an “accident” unrelated to his life, but the ordeal clearly weighed heavily on him. Some friends noticed his previous spirit and liveliness were diminished.

  • Though the Institute trustees voted to keep Oppenheimer as director, Strauss continued to obsessively document alleged infractions against him. Strauss called some of Oppenheimer’s defenders liars and spread damaging rumors about them.

  • Kitty Oppenheimer was also visibly distressed, contacting friends while drunk late at night. Their son Peter had a very difficult time in school and wrote angrily about the government’s unfair accusations.

  • To escape, the Oppenheimers took a long vacation sailing in the Virgin Islands. Concerned he was still being monitored, Oppenheimer notified FBI director Hoover of his plans. The FBI did have him under surveillance and feared he might defect.

  • On the remote island of St. John, the Oppenheimers stayed in a primitive lodge, seeking anonymity and a solitary refuge. They were in a state of shock but found some peace in the natural beauty of the island.

  • After the 1954 security hearing, Oppenheimer was essentially banished from government circles and became a pariah in mainstream society. He disappeared from public life despite previously being a famous, influential figure.

  • He became a symbol to liberals of everything wrong with McCarthyism and the Republican Party. Many saw him as a scientist-martyr and victim of the era’s excesses.

  • Abroad, European intellectuals reacted with incredulity, seeing the trial as evidence of America’s irrational fears.

  • Oppenheimer gave high-profile lectures portraying a bleak view of intellectuals embattled by popular emotions. He was interviewed by Murrow on TV about the debilitating effects of secrecy.

  • A controversy erupted when the University of Washington canceled his visiting professorship, sparking debates over academic freedom. This further cemented his image as an exiled intellectual.

  • Privately though, Oppenheimer did not see himself as a dissident and was disinclined to play an activist role. Some friends saw him as oddly passive and deferential to authority post-hearing.

  • In the mid-1950s, after being stripped of his security clearance, Oppenheimer was reluctant to speak out publicly on controversial issues related to nuclear weapons and policy, even when he privately disagreed with the Eisenhower administration’s drift toward nuclear war.

  • He declined invites to join scientists protesting the arms race, feeling he should avoid anything that appeared unpatriotic after the security hearings. He wanted to prove he was a reliable American patriot.

  • But he did occasionally express vague regret over Hiroshima, calling it a “tragic mistake” and indicating he shared disapproval over his role in developing the bomb.

  • He was more comfortable speaking out on cultural and scientific issues. He published essays pleading for an “open mind” and minimized secrecy, and spoke of the need for humility and reason in foreign policy.

  • His lectures at Harvard sparked protests, but were well attended. He used the platform to raise difficult questions about science, ethics and nuclear weapons that were on everyone’s mind post-WWII. Though avoided controversy, his lectures were still seen as profound and thought-provoking.

Here is a summary of the key points about Robert Oppenheimer’s life in the late 1950s:

  • Oppenheimer continued to preside over the Institute for Advanced Study, which had become a renowned center for theoretical physics and other disciplines under his leadership. He mentored young scholars like John Nash.

  • He began traveling and speaking publicly more often, including abroad. He attended conferences and visited countries like France, Belgium, Israel, and Japan, where he was known as “the father of the atomic bomb.”

  • His family life remained troubled, especially his relationship with his son Peter, who was sent to boarding school. When Oppenheimer spent a semester in Paris, he left Peter behind, straining their relationship further.

  • In 1954, the Oppenheimers started spending several months each year on the small island of St. John in the Virgin Islands. In 1957, Robert bought land and started building a simple beach house there. The island became an escape and rejuvenating exile for him.

  • He continued to feel like a social outcast and found solace in the natural beauty and simplicity of the island. It was a retreat where he could leave behind the fame, controversy, and demands on him.

  • In 1958, Robert Oppenheimer hired architect Wallace Harrison to design a simple beach house on St. John in the Caribbean. However, construction issues led to the house being perilously close to the water.

  • The Oppenheimers’ only neighbors were Robert and Nancy Gibney, who reluctantly sold them the beachfront land. Nancy’s first impressions of the Oppenheimers were that they were exotic but Robert was warm while Kitty was rude.

  • In 1959, the Oppenheimers stayed with the Gibneys for 7 weeks while their own house was being finished. The Oppenheimers were difficult guests, often up late making noise and demanding ice. After a fight with Kitty, Nancy kicked them out.

  • Relations between the neighbors remained poor, with fights over beach rights. Nancy disliked Robert in particular, seeing him as devious. The Oppenheimers hosted lively parties, at one of which Robert angrily told the Gibneys never to come back after Robert Gibney fired a gun.

  • In contrast, other locals like Doris and Ivan Jadan got along well with the Oppenheimers, enjoying Robert’s company and accepting Kitty despite her problems. Kitty was very protective of Robert.

  • The Oppenheimers’ beach house on St. John provided an escape for Robert from his post-war troubles, though conflicts with the Gibneys and Kitty’s behavior remained issues.

  • Robert and Kitty Oppenheimer spent increasing amounts of time on the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands in the early 1960s. St. John provided an escape and paradise for them.

  • Kitty occupied herself gardening for hours on end and cultivated orchids. However, she could be caustic and unhappy at times when alone.

  • Robert was described as humble, kind, and gentle on the island. He didn’t make distinctions between people and entertained a diverse group of friends.

  • Their daughter Toni also loved St. John. She was shy, sensitive, and demure as a teenager. She rebelled against her mother but Robert didn’t pay her much attention.

  • The Oppenheimers lived a casual life sailing, walking the beaches, and entertaining. However, life could also be primitive and dangerous. Robert suffered a serious foot injury when alone but sailed himself across the bay to get medical treatment.

  • In the evenings, Robert would recite poetry and serve martinis, though they didn’t seem to affect him anymore. The island provided an escape for the Oppenheimers from past troubles.

  • By the early 1960s, Oppenheimer was no longer a political pariah. The Kennedy administration invited him to events and awarded him the prestigious Enrico Fermi Prize in 1963, seen as symbolic rehabilitation.

  • Many physicists lobbied for Oppenheimer’s security clearance to be reinstated, but the political price was seen as too high. Oppenheimer himself said he would not go through another hearing.

  • On November 22, 1963, Oppenheimer learned of JFK’s assassination while working on his Fermi Prize acceptance speech. He was deeply affected, saying “nothing since Roosevelt’s death had felt to him like that afternoon.”

  • In December 1963, President Johnson awarded Oppenheimer the Fermi Prize. In his speech, Oppenheimer spoke of Jefferson’s “brotherly spirit of science” and suggested Johnson showed courage in honoring him despite past controversy.

  • The award was polarizing. Some Republicans boycotted and criticized it. Lewis Strauss was mortified by Oppenheimer’s rehabilitation, blaming it for his own failed nomination as Commerce Secretary in 1959.

  • Even after the award, Kitty Oppenheimer remained resentful of Teller and others involved in her husband’s 1954 security hearing. The case continued to haunt both Oppenheimer and Strauss until their deaths.

  • Oppenheimer was politically disengaged in the 1960s, unlike his active involvement in the 1930s and 1940s. He did not speak out publicly against nuclear hysteria or the Vietnam War, though privately he was skeptical of the war.

  • In 1964, he read Gar Alperovitz’s book arguing that diplomatic threats against the Soviet Union were a factor in the decision to use the atomic bomb against Japan. Oppenheimer recognized the portrayed motivations of Stimson and Byrnes.

  • A 1965 German play by Heinar Kipphardt dramatized Oppenheimer’s 1954 security hearing. Though initially opposed, Oppenheimer came to accept the play’s popularity despite disliking its added melodrama.

  • In 1965, Oppenheimer resigned as director of the Institute for Advanced Study, citing his approaching retirement age, Kitty’s worsening alcoholism, and intolerable relations with some faculty. The trustees had voted to build him a new home on campus.

  • Despite resigning, he took pleasure in the completion of the Institute’s new library that year, designed by the same architect as his beach house. However, petty politics still provoked his anger at times.

  • In late 1965, a routine physical revealed Oppenheimer had throat cancer likely caused by decades of heavy smoking. He underwent surgery and radiation treatment in 1966 which initially seemed successful.

  • However, by summer 1966 it was clear the cancer had returned and spread. Though putting on a brave face, Oppenheimer was resigned to his fate. He became weaker and had increasing difficulty eating and speaking.

  • He moved out of Olden Manor that fall into a temporary house, as the Institute’s new director was moving in. In October 1966 tests revealed the cancer was widespread and inoperable. Oppenheimer underwent more radiation treatment to try to slow its spread.

  • He faced death with courage and grace, seeing old friends and not complaining. In December, his former student David Bohm wrote expressing concern over Oppenheimer’s reported feelings of guilt. Oppenheimer replied that while he did not regret his work at Los Alamos, he did feel responsible for the present and future.

  • By late 1966, Oppenheimer was clearly dying from the ravages of throat cancer. But he maintained his dignity and strength of spirit to the very end.

Here is a summary of the key points from the passage about Oppenheimer’s final months:

  • In late 1966, Oppenheimer was diagnosed with throat cancer. Radiation therapy proved ineffective and by early 1967 he knew he was dying.

  • He became very frail, with deep lines in his face, thin white hair, and poor hearing and speech. However, he maintained his grace and interest in ethics and responsibility.

  • In January 1967, he told his secretary Verna Hobson to retire, knowing she would not leave while he was alive.

  • He made an effort to attend one last committee meeting at the Institute in mid-February, impressing others with his preparation despite his illness.

  • Writer Louis Fischer visited Oppenheimer shortly before his death on February 18, 1967 and found him barely able to speak but still trying to be a gracious host.

  • Oppenheimer died at home at age 62. After his death, he received admiring obituaries highlighting his intellect and contributions to science. Some, like Senator Fulbright, noted the unfair treatment Oppenheimer had received.

  • After memorial services in Princeton and Washington DC, Oppenheimer’s scientific colleagues like Isidor Rabi and Victor Weisskopf honored him in speeches collected in a published volume.

Here is a summary of the key points from the book excerpt:

  • After Robert Oppenheimer’s death in 1967, his wife Kitty took his ashes in an urn to Hawksnest Bay off St. John island. On a rainy day, she and some friends went by boat to a spot between three small islands, where she dropped the urn overboard to fulfill Robert’s wishes.

  • Within a couple years, Kitty began living with Robert’s close friend Bob Serber. When someone called Serber “Robert” once, Kitty sharply corrected them that there was “only one Robert.” In 1972, Kitty and Serber sailed the boat Moonraker, but Kitty became ill and died that year in Panama. Her ashes were scattered near where Robert’s had been.

  • In 1959, Frank Oppenheimer returned to academia at the University of Colorado after being blacklisted. In 1965 he visited science museums in Europe, inspiring him and his wife Jackie to open the Exploratorium in 1969, an influential hands-on science museum.

  • Robert’s son Peter moved to New Mexico, lived in his cabin, and made a living as a contractor while keeping his family ties private. Robert’s daughter Toni struggled with depression and once tried drowning herself where her father’s ashes were scattered. In 1977 she committed suicide in the beach cottage Robert had built.

  • The author Martin Sherwin recounts starting his Oppenheimer biography research in 1979 by horseback riding where Oppenheimer often rode, to understand his experiences better. He spoke to Oppenheimer’s son Peter to gain insights about the family.

  • Robert Oppenheimer was a pioneering physicist who founded a leading school of theoretical physics in the 1930s and was known as the “father of the atomic bomb” for his role leading the Manhattan Project.

  • The author began researching Oppenheimer’s biography in the early 1980s with plans to complete it in 4-5 years, but it ended up taking over two decades due to the complexity of Oppenheimer’s story and its connections to broader American history.

  • The research involved extensive travel, interviews, and gathering of documents and letters to understand Oppenheimer’s life and times. It made the author realize biography writing is complex.

  • In the 2000s, the author invited Kai Bird to join him as a co-author. Together they finished the biography, with support from their wives, editors, researchers, and others.

  • The book covers not just Oppenheimer’s personal story but his iconic standing and the light he sheds on America in his times - the nuclear arms race, McCarthyism, etc.

  • Even after his death, Oppenheimer’s shadow has grown through continued books, movies, articles on him. The biography involved arduous yet exhilarating research to understand this complex historical figure.

Here is a summary of key points about J. Robert Oppenheimer’s early life and family background:

  • He was born in New York City in 1904 to German immigrant parents, Julius and Ella Oppenheimer. His father was a textile importer and his mother was an artist.

  • Oppenheimer came from a secular Jewish family that was well-off financially but somewhat detached emotionally. He had two brothers, Frank and Wilhelm (called Willy).

  • As a child, Oppenheimer was very frail and suffered numerous health problems. He was also very precocious intellectually. His parents encouraged his academic interests.

  • He attended the Ethical Culture School in New York, where he excelled in languages, science, and mathematics. The school preached a philosophy of ethical living without religious doctrine.

  • Oppenheimer then went to Harvard University at age 18. He studied a wide range of subjects and was recognized as brilliant but somewhat erratic. He graduated summa cum laude in three years.

  • For graduate studies, he went to Cambridge University in England, where he thrived in the intellectual atmosphere. He earned a doctorate in physics in 1925 under the supervision of J.J. Thomson.

  • Throughout his education, Oppenheimer read very widely in literature, art, and languages, in addition to science. He had broad intellectual interests and talents beyond just physics.

  • After Cambridge, Oppenheimer traveled extensively in Europe before returning to the U.S. to teach physics at Caltech and then the University of California, Berkeley. His early physics research focused on quantum theory.

  • In the late 1920s, he began doing research on cosmic rays and nuclear physics, bringing him to the forefront of those cutting-edge fields. This laid the foundation for his later role in the Manhattan Project.

Here are the key points from the summarized passages:

  • Robert Oppenheimer chose to attend Harvard University in 1922, drawn by its reputation for excellence.

  • At Harvard, Oppenheimer was very thin, pale and delicate looking. His eyes were intensely blue.

  • Oppenheimer was prone to depressive episodes throughout his life. At Harvard, he had bouts of melancholy where he isolated himself from friends.

  • The cold climate at Harvard was difficult for Oppenheimer, who preferred warm weather. He complained about the “intolerable heat” of the rooms.

  • Oppenheimer felt out of place at Harvard, struggling to adjust socially. He later described his time there as spent “in a separate prison.”

Does this help summarize the key points about Oppenheimer’s time as a student at Harvard? Let me know if you need anything else explained or summarized.

Based on the summary, it seems the key points are:

  • In 1925, Oppenheimer went to Cambridge University to study under J. J. Thomson, but was unhappy there and struggled with depression.

  • He saw several psychiatrists, including one in Paris who disturbingly told him his problem was incurable.

  • His friend Francis Fergusson helped care for him during this difficult period.

  • After a stay in a French sanatorium, Oppenheimer recovered and returned to Cambridge, completing his studies.

  • The causes of his breakdown remain mysterious, with Oppenheimer himself reluctant to discuss details.

  • This formative experience shaped Oppenheimer as a young man but was absent from the public record during the 1954 loyalty hearings.

Here is a summary of the key points from the excerpt:

  • Some historians have speculated that Oppenheimer wrestled with latent homosexuality, but there is no solid evidence for this. His close friends denied he had homosexual tendencies.

  • At Göttingen, Oppenheimer studied under Max Born and bonded with an exceptional group of physicists. He learned quantum mechanics, which he found intellectually exciting.

  • Oppenheimer struggled socially, feeling awkward around women. He had a brief, doomed romance with a Dutch girl. His friend Paul Dirac tried to pair him up with women.

  • In summer 1927, Oppenheimer grew close to the eminent physicist Paul Ehrenfest and his wife Tatiana during a visit to their home in Leiden. The Ehrenfests nicknamed Oppenheimer “Opje.”

  • Oppenheimer was mentored by Niels Bohr in Copenhagen. Bohr appreciated Oppenheimer’s philosophical bent. Oppenheimer was awed by Bohr’s personality and leadership in physics.

  • Oppenheimer returned to Göttingen feeling intellectually transformed by his exposure to the new physics in Europe. He was ready to make original contributions to quantum mechanics.

  • In the early 1930s, Oppenheimer taught physics at Caltech and Berkeley while also conducting his own research. He was known as an excellent teacher who could explain complex concepts clearly, though his lectures were sometimes obscure.

  • Oppenheimer became close friends with many of his students, forming a social circle that became known as the “nim nim boys.” They shared his love of physics, the outdoors, and fine food and drink.

  • Among the “nim nims” were Edwin Uehling, Robert Serber, and Paul Olum. Oppenheimer was their intellectual leader and role model.

  • The group would take camping trips, sometimes riding horses and mules into the Sierras. On these trips, Oppenheimer impressed his students with his stamina and wilderness skills.

  • Oppenheimer’s students tried to emulate his speech, mannerisms, and intellectual brilliance. Though sometimes arrogant, he was also charming and inspired great loyalty among the group.

  • In the early 1930s, Oppenheimer made important contributions to theoretical physics, especially in astrophysics relating to neutron stars and black holes. However, his greatest impact was as a teacher and leader of the talented young physicists who gathered around him.

J. Robert Oppenheimer became fascinated with Marxism and communist ideology in the 1930s. Here are some key points about this period:

  • In the depths of the Great Depression, many American intellectuals were drawn to Marxism and communism as an alternative to capitalism, which was seen as failing. Oppenheimer was influenced by this climate.

  • He began reading Marxist classics like Das Kapital, as well as other left-wing literature. His friend Haakon Chevalier said Oppenheimer was “better read in Marx than I was.”

  • Oppenheimer was appalled by the rise of fascism in Europe, having Jewish friends who were persecuted by the Nazis. Marxism seemed to offer hope against fascism.

  • He was inspired by leftist friends like Chevalier, Jean Tatlock, and Bernard Peters, who had first-hand experience with fascist repression. Their stories of fighting for social justice resonated with Oppenheimer.

  • In 1936, Oppenheimer said his interests “began to change” as he became sympathetic to the American communist movement. He saw communists as allies against fascism and devoted to progressive causes like workers’ rights.

  • However, evidence suggests Oppenheimer never formally joined the Communist Party. He saw Marxism as an idealistic philosophy, but was not an active organizer or recruit. His leftist phase was short-lived.

So in summary, Oppenheimer explored Marxism and communism for a time in the 1930s due to the political climate and influence of friends, but did not fully embrace it as a long-term political commitment. It represented a phase in his thinking rather than a hardened ideology.

Here is a summary of the key points from the excerpt:

  • Julius Oppenheimer was a wealthy textile importer who left each of his sons a fortune when he died in 1937. Despite this wealth, Robert Oppenheimer lived modestly and donated much of his inheritance to left-wing causes.

  • Frank Oppenheimer was Robert’s younger brother. Frank was a physicist who studied under Robert at Caltech and Berkeley. He was viewed as sweet, thoughtful, and a finer person than his cocky older brother.

  • At Johns Hopkins, Frank joined the Communist Party along with his wife Jackie. The two were devoted activists who traveled to Communist meetings around the country.

  • In contrast to his brother, Frank was more practical than theoretical as a physicist, preferring to work in the lab tinkering with equipment.

  • Frank and Jackie arrived at Berkeley in a brand new Lincoln convertible bought with Robert’s money, an extravagance that embarrassed Robert. Jackie was eccentric and could drive Robert crazy.

  • As students, both Frank and Jackie were ardently committed Communists. Frank once clipped an anti-communist newspaper column and mailed it to the authorities to provoke the writer.

Here is a summary of the key points from the excerpt:

  • Frank Oppenheimer joined the Communist Party in 1937 or 1938 through the Teachers Union in New York. He was motivated by leftist political views and a desire to fight fascism.

  • Robert Oppenheimer was recruited into a secret Communist Party unit in late 1940 by his friend Haakon Chevalier. The unit had only about 6-8 members.

  • Oppenheimer was drawn to leftist causes in the 1930s due to the Great Depression and his opposition to fascism. However, he did not openly join the Communist Party.

  • Oppenheimer and Chevalier co-wrote two Communist Party pamphlets in 1940 criticizing the university administration’s stance on academic freedom.

  • The pamphlets came to the attention of the university president, who kept them in a file on communists. Chevalier believed Oppenheimer wrote most of the content.

  • Oppenheimer was deeply conflicted about the Soviet Union, opposing its totalitarianism but hoping it could be an ally against fascism. The Nazi-Soviet Pact in 1939 was very troubling for him.

  • Overall, Oppenheimer displayed Communist sympathies in the late 1930s and early 1940s, even if he did not formally join the party. His leftist views got him into some trouble with university officials.

Here is a summary of the key points from the excerpt:

  • Oppenheimer met Jean Tatlock in 1936 and they began a passionate love affair. She was ten years younger than him and a student at Stanford. Their relationship continued on and off for years.

  • In the fall of 1936, Oppenheimer met Katherine “Kitty” Puening Harrison, a radical leftist who had been married to Joe Dallet, an American volunteer who died fighting fascists in the Spanish Civil War. Kitty had Communist Party connections.

  • Oppenheimer and Kitty married in November 1940 despite their friends thinking it was an odd match. Kitty had emotional issues and drank heavily. Oppenheimer later said he married her out of pity.

  • Before marrying Kitty, Oppenheimer had affairs with several women, including a married woman, Ruth Tolman, and others. He had a reputation as a womanizer among students.

  • Oppenheimer told a friend, “I’m going to marry a friend of yours, Steve” referring to Kitty’s previous relationship with Steve Nelson, a Communist labor organizer. This shows Oppenheimer was aware of Kitty’s radical ties when he married her.

  • The excerpt provides background on Oppenheimer’s complex romantic life and unconventional choice of wife, foreshadowing later scrutiny of Kitty’s leftist politics.

  • In June 1940, J. Robert Oppenheimer moved to Los Angeles and lived at 5531⁄2 Coronado Street.

  • In February 1939, Oppenheimer wrote a letter to his friend Robert Serber about the recent discovery of nuclear fission, noting the possibility of making an atomic bomb.

  • At Berkeley, Oppenheimer recruited talented students like Joseph Weinberg and David Bohm into his radical discussion group. Many were sympathetic to communism.

  • In 1941, Oppenheimer chaired a meeting of Berkeley faculty that debated setting up a local branch of the left-leaning Association of Scientific Workers.

  • That November, in response to growing scrutiny of his leftist ties, Oppenheimer resigned as faculty adviser to Berkeley student communists.

  • In 1942, Oppenheimer was appointed head of the bomb design laboratory at Los Alamos. General Leslie Groves, who oversaw the Manhattan Project, clashed with Oppenheimer but recognized his brilliance.

Unfortunately I do not have access to the full text of lamos Primer, p. xxxii to summarize. The key points from the rest of the paragraph seem to be:

  • Oppenheimer was appointed director of Los Alamos in late 1942.
  • This was a controversial choice given Oppenheimer’s left-wing views and lack of administrative experience.
  • General Groves recognized that Oppenheimer’s scientific brilliance was needed for the project to succeed.
  • Oppenheimer assembled a talented team of scientists for the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos.
  • There were concerns among some that Oppenheimer’s past radical ties posed a security risk, but Groves defended keeping him as director.
  • Oppenheimer threw himself into the work at Los Alamos with great energy and became very patriotic.

Does this help summarize the key points? Let me know if you need anything else!

Here is a summary of key points about Oppenheimer and secrecy at Los Alamos:

  • Oppenheimer was concerned about too much secrecy and compartmentalization of knowledge at Los Alamos, feeling it hindered progress on the bomb project. However, he also recognized the need for security given the sensitive nature of the work.

  • In 1943, Oppenheimer told General Groves he was worried that compartmentalization was impeding collaborative scientific work. However, he agreed to go along with Groves’ security policies.

  • Oppenheimer had tensions with Edward Teller over secrecy issues. Teller wanted to restrict knowledge more than Oppenheimer felt was productive.

  • There were significant efforts made to keep secrets compartmentalized at Los Alamos, including residents not knowing what others were working on and having classified job titles. This restrictive system concerned Oppenheimer.

  • Oppenheimer tried to balance open scientific exchange and security, at times resisting over-compartmentalization while recognizing legitimate security needs. He struggled to reconcile these competing demands at Los Alamos.

In summary, Oppenheimer recognized the need for security for the bomb project but was worried about excessive secrecy hindering progress, trying to strike a balance between open science and military secrecy. He was willing to go along with Groves’ strict compartmentalization policies despite misgivings.

Here is a summary of the key points from the excerpt of American Prometheus about J. Robert Oppenheimer and Jean Tatlock:

  • In June 1943, Oppenheimer was secretly monitored by military intelligence agents when he visited Jean Tatlock’s apartment. Tatlock was his former lover and a former member of the Communist Party. The agents were concerned about Oppenheimer’s past leftist associations.

  • In August 1943, Oppenheimer was interrogated by intelligence agents about his relationship with Tatlock and his knowledge of communist activities. He admitted knowing several communists but denied being disloyal. The agents concluded he was telling the truth.

  • In January 1944, Tatlock committed suicide in her apartment by taking an overdose of barbiturates. Her motive was unknown. Oppenheimer was devastated by her death.

  • The book suggests Oppenheimer’s leftist associations in the 1930s continued to be a source of suspicion during his work on the Manhattan Project, requiring interrogations to confirm his loyalty. Tatlock’s suicide while he headed Los Alamos further complicated this history.

Here is a summary of the key points from the excerpt:

  • Life at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project was difficult and isolated, but residents tried to create a community. Everyone lived in cramped quarters and resources were scarce.

  • Oppenheimer worked intensely and was under a lot of stress as director. His wife Kitty struggled to adjust and began drinking heavily.

  • The Oppenheimers’ daughter Toni was born in December 1944. Kitty was unstable and unable to care for the baby, so their friend Pat Sherr helped take care of her.

  • Oppenheimer befriended Edith Warner, who lived at Otowi Bridge near Los Alamos. She served him tea and comforted him during the stressful work. When Warner was dying in 1951, she told another friend she wanted the Oppenheimers to adopt her baby granddaughter.

  • The excerpt provides insights into daily life at Los Alamos through struggles with scarce supplies, drinking and parties, and the difficulties of families living in isolation during the intense work on the bomb. It also reveals Oppenheimer’s personal stresses and relationships during this time.

  • Oppenheimer played a central role at Los Alamos, overseeing the effort to design and build the atomic bomb. He led a talented team of scientists and engineers.

  • Some scientists, like Bohr and Szilard, pushed for international control of atomic weapons. But Groves and Oppenheimer were committed to building the bomb as quickly as possible.

  • There were debates among the scientists about whether to build a demonstration bomb or directly use it against Japan. Some were troubled by the moral implications of the bomb’s devastating power.

  • Oppenheimer clashed at times with other leading scientists like Teller and Parsons. He had to balance strong personalities at Los Alamos.

  • The massive effort succeeded and the first atomic bomb test took place at the Trinity site in July 1945. This led to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki soon after.

  • After the war, Oppenheimer advocated international control of atomic energy and tried to restrain the nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union. But his politics later made him enemies in the government.

Here is a summary of the key points in the passage:

  • In the spring of 1945, some scientists involved with the Manhattan Project began questioning whether the atomic bomb should be used against Japan without warning. Oppenheimer was torn but did not openly protest.

  • Germany surrendered in May 1945. Some scientists hoped this would lead to reconsideration of using the atomic bomb, but the Interim Committee recommended it be dropped without warning on a Japanese city.

  • Oppenheimer attended the committee meetings but did not openly object. He later said he went along with the recommendation, feeling the bomb might quickly end the war.

  • In June, Oppenheimer received a petition from Szilard urging a demonstration of the bomb to Japan before use. Oppenheimer blocked circulation of the petition at Los Alamos.

  • As the Trinity test neared in July, tensions rose at Los Alamos. Oppenheimer was emotionally strained, quoting John Donne’s poem “Batter my heart, three-person’d God.”

  • On July 16, 1945, the Trinity test succeeded, vindicating the work of Los Alamos. Oppenheimer later said, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Does this help summarize the key points about Oppenheimer’s role leading up to the Trinity test? Let me know if you need any part of the summary expanded.

Here is a summary of the key points from page 73 of The Day the Sun Rose Twice:

  • After the successful Trinity test, Oppenheimer was deeply conflicted about the destructive power unleashed by the atomic bomb. He felt enormous relief that the test was successful, but also grave concerns about using the bomb against Japan.

  • Oppenheimer told his brother Frank that when he saw the Trinity explosion, he thought of a line from the Bhagavad Gita: “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” This suggested Oppenheimer’s misgivings about the bomb’s terrible power.

  • Despite these qualms, Oppenheimer still advocated using the bomb against Japanese cities. He seemed to feel this was necessary to end the war quickly.

  • After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Oppenheimer was devastated by the civilian death toll and said he felt he had “blood on his hands.” He tried to lobby policymakers to put the bomb under international control.

  • The mixed feelings Oppenheimer had after the bombings reflected the deep ambivalence within the scientific community about the consequences of their creation. This ambivalence would shape debates over nuclear policy for decades to come.

Here is a summary of the key points regarding “oblique attack”:

  • In the 1946 book A Peril and a Hope, Arthur Smith argues that international control of atomic energy is urgently needed to prevent an “oblique attack” with nuclear weapons by a major power against a smaller nation.

  • Smith warns that the US monopoly on atomic bombs is temporary and that within a few years other nations could develop their own. Once that happens, a major power like the USSR could secretly give bombs to a smaller nation, which could then use them while denying involvement of the major power.

  • This “oblique attack” scenario represented a dangerous loophole in the Baruch Plan for international control of atomic energy. The Plan focused on preventing direct attacks between major powers but did not address this indirect attack possibility.

  • Smith’s book highlighted flaws in the Baruch Plan’s approach to controlling atomic weapons and helped spur thinking about how to improve international control mechanisms. The “oblique attack” scenario anticipated later nuclear proliferation concerns.

  • In 1946, radiation detectors were installed at some major airports and ports, as recommended by the classified Hofstadter-Panofsky “Screwdriver Report.”

  • Oppenheimer was conspicuously not invited to witness the Bikini atomic tests in 1946. President Truman referred to him as a “cry-baby scientist.”

  • Oppenheimer tried to convince officials like Acheson of the need for international control of atomic energy, but grew depressed as tensions rose with the Soviet Union.

  • In 1946, Oppenheimer told Chevalier about efforts by Soviet agents to obtain classified information. Chevalier reported this to security officials, implicating Oppenheimer.

  • Oppenheimer denied Chevalier’s allegations and claimed he had fabricated the story to test Chevalier’s reactions. The FBI wiretapped Oppenheimer but found no evidence against him.

  • In 1947, Oppenheimer became director of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. Some were suspicious of him, but most respected his leadership.

  • Oppenheimer had an affair with physicist Richard Tolman’s wife Ruth in the 1940s. This later angered some, including Lewis Strauss.

Here is a summary of the key points from the passages:

  • In 1947, J. Robert Oppenheimer became the director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. He and Kitty moved into the institute’s director’s house, which Oppenheimer furnished lavishly with art, books, and carpets.

  • Oppenheimer transformed the institute into a center for theoretical physics, recruiting many young physicists. He gave them freedom to pursue their interests, though he could be harsh in seminars. The institute became known as an “intellectual hotel.”

  • Oppenheimer still admired Einstein, though Einstein was skeptical of Oppenheimer’s leftist politics. When Einstein died in 1955, Oppenheimer eulogized him as an extraordinary, original thinker.

  • Some of Oppenheimer’s fellow scientists criticized the atomic bomb project. Oppenheimer rejected any sense of guilt, arguing scientists weren’t responsible for how their work was used.

  • In 1948, Oppenheimer launched a new physics journal, Physics Today, hoping to rejuvenate physics in the postwar era. He wanted physics to address broad human problems, not just technical issues.

  • Overall, as institute director Oppenheimer made it a vibrant intellectual center and gave physicists freedom to think creatively. But he could also be arrogant and insensitive to others.

  • In 1949, Robert Oppenheimer began spending more time away from his wife Kitty and their home in Princeton. He traveled frequently for work and often stayed in hotels.

  • Kitty’s drinking had become worse over the years. She would get very drunk at social events and sometimes threw things at Robert. Friends felt he was patient and loyal to her despite her behavior.

  • The Oppenheimers employed several live-in helpers over the years to assist with Kitty and the household, including a doctor, nurse, and psychiatrist at times.

  • In contrast to his troubled marriage, Robert had close platonic relationships with several female friends, including Verna Hobson, Priscilla Duffield, and Mildred Goldberger. They provided intellectual companionship that he did not have with Kitty.

  • Robert’s relationship with his children Toni and Peter was distant. He traveled frequently and was preoccupied with work. Kitty’s instability also contributed to an unsettled home environment.

  • By 1949, it seemed the Oppenheimer marriage had deteriorated significantly, though Robert remained committed to Kitty. Her worsening alcoholism put strains on the relationship that their friends observed.

Here is a summary of the key points from the excerpts:

  • Oppenheimer tried to persuade AEC Chairman David Lilienthal to oppose development of the hydrogen bomb, but Lilienthal felt they had no choice but to pursue it.

  • At an October 1949 meeting of the General Advisory Committee, Oppenheimer and James Conant argued against rushing into a hydrogen bomb program, believing it would be an arms race provocation to the Soviets. But they said research should continue.

  • After the meeting, Lilienthal recorded that Oppenheimer was “looking almost translucent” and “on the verge of sickness” over the decision.

  • Physicist I.I. Rabi believed Oppenheimer opposed the H-bomb on moral grounds but felt he couldn’t express this openly at the time.

  • Oppenheimer and State Department official George Kennan exchanged letters in late 1949 expressing deep concerns about the destabilizing impact of nuclear weapons.

  • Edward Teller and Ernest Lawrence strongly pushed for hydrogen bomb development over Oppenheimer’s objections. Teller believed the Soviets would build the H-bomb and the U.S. had to stay ahead.

Does this help summarize the key points concisely? Let me know if you would like me to modify or expand the summary.

  • J. Robert Oppenheimer’s reputation was attacked in 1950 by Paul Crouch, who alleged that Oppenheimer had communist ties. However, Crouch was an unreliable witness who had a history of making false accusations and perjuring himself.

  • In August 1950, William Borden, former staff director of the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy (JCAE), wrote a letter accusing Oppenheimer of being a security risk. Borden believed Oppenheimer was loyal to the Soviet Union based partly on hearsay.

  • Lewis Strauss, head of the Atomic Energy Commission, had long disliked Oppenheimer and wanted him removed from influence over nuclear policy. Strauss encouraged Borden’s accusations against Oppenheimer.

  • Borden’s letter launched an investigation into Oppenheimer’s background and loyalties. This led to Oppenheimer’s security clearance being revoked in 1954 after a lengthy hearing, effectively ending his career as a government advisor.

  • Oppenheimer was a victim of overzealous security concerns and McCarthyite fears of communist infiltration. The evidence against him was largely based on hearsay, his left-wing views in the 1930s, and opposition to the hydrogen bomb.

Here is a summary of the key points from the excerpt:

  • Joseph Weinberg was acquitted in his 1953 trial of perjury charges related to his association with Oppenheimer in the 1940s.

  • After the acquittal, Oppenheimer tried to get reimbursement from the AEC for his legal expenses related to the Weinberg case, but the request was rejected.

  • Lewis Strauss, who was on the AEC, wrote a memo saying Oppenheimer had not been fully candid about his relationship with Weinberg. This added to mounting tensions between Oppenheimer and Strauss.

  • The acquittal did not resolve Oppenheimer’s long-running security issues. There was still a “beast in the jungle” looming over him, per Henry James’ phrase, referring to a foreboding sense of impending crisis.

  • Oppenheimer’s legal issues and standing with the government remained uncertain, with the feeling that something damaging could emerge at any time despite the Weinberg acquittal. This kept alive questions about Oppenheimer’s loyalty and security status.

Here are summaries of the key points from the specified pages:

Atoms for Peace and War, p. 44:

  • In February 1953, Oppenheimer gave a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations advocating international control of atomic energy to prevent nuclear war. He argued the U.S. and Soviets were like “two scorpions in a bottle” who needed to find a way to coexist or destroy each other with atomic weapons.

Scientists, Business, and the State, 1890–1960, p. 155:

  • Oppenheimer’s “two scorpions” metaphor echoed a similar phrase used by Vannevar Bush in an earlier speech. The speech upset government officials who felt Oppenheimer was hindering their policy goals regarding nuclear weapons and Soviet relations.

In summary, in early 1953 Oppenheimer gave a speech arguing for international control of atomic weapons to avoid nuclear war between the U.S. and Soviet Union. His rhetoric upset some government officials who felt he was obstructing their nuclear weapons policy.

Based on the summary, it seems that Oppenheimer’s testimony about his past communist associations was at times misleading or evasive, which damaged his credibility. The questioning focused on his relationship with his brother Frank and Frank’s ex-wife Jean Tatlock, who were both communists. Oppenheimer admitted he lied to security officers about aspects of these relationships in the past. The humiliating cross-examination exposed contradictions and omissions in his previous statements, portraying him as unreliable and untrustworthy. However, the summary does not evaluate whether these associations made him an actual security risk. The hearing appeared to be politicized and unfair, intended to remove him despite his seminal contributions to the atomic program. More context would be needed to fully assess the accusations against Oppenheimer and the fairness of the proceedings.

Here is a summary of the key points from Navasky, Naming Names, p. 322:

  • After the AEC revoked Oppenheimer’s security clearance in 1954, his case became a cause célèbre among liberals and intellectuals who saw it as an attack on academic and intellectual freedom.

  • Many rallied to Oppenheimer’s defense, signing petitions and circulating letters protesting the AEC’s decision. Oppenheimer’s case symbolized the oppressive climate of McCarthyism in the 1950s.

  • However, some former leftists and communists attacked Oppenheimer as a hypocrite, criticizing him for naming names and denouncing others to the FBI and HUAC while seeking to protect himself. They saw him as someone who betrayed his former allies to save himself.

  • Oppenheimer’s case revealed divisions on the left over issues of informants and betrayals amid the anti-communist purges of the 1950s. For some, he was a martyr, for others, a traitor. His case became a flashpoint in debates over informing and McCarthyism.

  • In 1958, Robert Oppenheimer hired Francis Fergusson and his wife to build a house on his property on St. John.

  • The house, called “Easter Rock”, took years to build due to logistical challenges. It was finally completed in 1963.

  • Easter Rock was located about 100 yards up the hill from Oppenheimer’s beach house. It had two bedrooms and a large living area.

  • Oppenheimer visited St. John frequently in the late 1950s and early 1960s, sometimes for months at a time. He loved spending time on the beach and sailing.

  • On St. John, Oppenheimer was relaxed and carefree. He developed close friendships with several local residents.

  • Oppenheimer often hosted friends and colleagues from the mainland at Easter Rock. He enjoyed throwing parties and tempting guests with his martinis.

  • In the early 1960s, Oppenheimer’s health started to decline. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in late 1965. But he continued visiting St. John when he could.

  • St. John provided an escape for Oppenheimer from his troubles on the mainland. The island was a refuge where he found peace of mind in his later years.

  • The Gibneys initially sold one acre of their land on St. John to a couple from St. Louis, who then resold it to Robert Oppenheimer. A year later, in 1947, Oppenheimer persuaded the Gibneys to sell him a second acre of land adjacent to his existing property.

  • Oppenheimer’s presence on the island was controversial and caused tensions with some longtime residents like the Gibneys. Kitty Oppenheimer in particular was disliked for her rudeness and drunken behavior.

  • However, Oppenheimer himself was remembered by most as a polite, humble man who loved sailing and discussing literature. His daughter Toni spent time on St. John but was extremely shy.

  • In 1963, some wanted to award Oppenheimer the Enrico Fermi prize but he declined, feeling it would reopen old wounds from his security hearing. In December 1963 he attended an event at the White House with President Johnson.

  • Oppenheimer was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1965. He continued working but his health deteriorated. He died at Princeton Hospital in February 1967 at the age of 62.

Here is a summary of the key points regarding Oppenheimer’s throat cancer and death:

  • In late 1966, Oppenheimer was diagnosed with throat cancer. He underwent chemotherapy treatment which left him severely weakened.

  • On February 18, 1967, Oppenheimer died at his home in Princeton, New Jersey at the age of 62.

  • His death was widely mourned by the scientific community. Colleagues like Isidor Rabi praised Oppenheimer as “a man of exceptional intellect and imagination” and lamented the loss of his talents.

  • Oppenheimer’s wife Kitty suffered from an embolism and died in 1972. His former lover Jean Tatlock had committed suicide in 1944.

  • Oppenheimer’s achievements in physics and his complex legacy as director of the Manhattan Project made him an iconic figure of the nuclear age. His death from cancer was seen by some as a cruel irony given his role in developing the atomic bomb.

  • Though the chemotherapy was unsuccessful in treating his cancer, it was the disease itself and not the treatment that ultimately caused Oppenheimer’s death. The chemotherapy severely weakened him in his final months.

Here is a summary of the key information from the book references:

The list contains references to biographies and histories related to J. Robert Oppenheimer, the Manhattan Project, physics, the Cold War, communism, and government policies on atomic weapons. Key works include biographies of Oppenheimer, histories of the Manhattan Project, memoirs by project participants, biographies of physicists like Einstein and Feynman, books on the Cold War and McCarthyism, and government documents on nuclear policy. The references cover Oppenheimer’s life and scientific work, the development of the atomic bomb, the political climate of the early Cold War era, and debates over nuclear weapons policy in the postwar period. The list provides sources for researching Oppenheimer’s complex story within the context of the wider history of physics, World War II, and the Cold War in the 20th century.

Here are concise summaries of the books listed:

Moynahan - A firsthand account of the Manhattan Project and development of the atomic bomb.

Nasar - A biography of mathematician John Nash and his struggles with schizophrenia.

Navasky - An examination of the anti-communist blacklist and hearings held by the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Nelson, Barrett, Ruck - A biography of American communist leader Steve Nelson.

Nichols - A history of the path to building the first atomic bomb.

Norris - A biography of General Leslie Groves and his role in the Manhattan Project.

Offner - Analysis of President Truman’s Cold War foreign policy in the years after WWII.

Oppenheimer - Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer’s memoirs and speeches.

Paine - Examines the influence of Hinduism and Indian culture on prominent Western thinkers.

Painter - Overview of the Cold War and its impact on international history.

Pais - Biographies and histories of major 20th century physicists including Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein.

Polenberg - Transcript of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s 1954 security hearing over his clearance.

Powers - Details the Nazi German nuclear program during WWII and the work of Werner Heisenberg.

Prochnau and Larsen - Political biography of Senator Henry M. Jackson.

Rabi et al. - Remembrances of J. Robert Oppenheimer by colleagues.

Reeves - Biography of Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Rhodes - Histories of the development of the atomic and hydrogen bombs.

Rigden - Biography of physicist Isidor Rabi.

Robertson - Biography of politician James F. Byrnes.

Roensch - Memoir of life in Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project.

Schrecker - Examinations of McCarthyism and its impact on academia.

Schwartz - Overview of the costs and consequences of US nuclear weapons.

Seaborg - Autobiography of Glenn Seaborg, Manhattan Project scientist and Atomic Energy Commission chairman.

Segrè - Biographies of physicists Emilio Segrè and Enrico Fermi.

Serber - Memoir by Robert Serber, scientific leader on the Manhattan Project.

Sherwin - Analysis of the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan and its historical legacy.

Smith and Weiner - An edited collection of letters and remembrances about J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Stern and Green - Examination of the Oppenheimer security hearing.

Strauss - Autobiography of Lewis Strauss, Atomic Energy Commission chairman.

Szasz - History of the Trinity nuclear test site and explosion.

Teller - Memoir of physicist Edward Teller, known as the “father of the hydrogen bomb.”

Wang - Analysis of scientists’ roles in Cold War anti-communism.

Weisskopf - Autobiography of physicist Victor Weisskopf.

Wheeler - Memoir of physicist John Wheeler focusing on his scientific career.

Wigner - Autobiography of physicist Eugene Wigner.

Williams - Biography of physicist Klaus Fuchs and his atomic espionage for the Soviet Union.

Here is a summary of the key points from the sources you listed:

  • Lamos: Provides a history of The Ranch School in New Mexico where Oppenheimer attended as a teenager and was first introduced to physics.

  • Washington Gone Crazy: Examines Senator Pat McCarran’s communist witch hunts and how Oppenheimer got caught up in the hysteria.

  • Joe Alsop’s Cold War: Looks at journalist Joe Alsop’s influence in shaping policy during the early Cold War, including his interactions with Oppenheimer.

  • The Advisors: Focuses on the relationship between Oppenheimer and Edward Teller and their differing views on building the hydrogen bomb.

  • Inside the Kremlin’s Cold War: Provides insights into Soviet perspectives on the nuclear arms race with the U.S., adding context about Oppenheimer’s opponents.

  • Several articles analyze technical, ethical and policy aspects of the atomic bomb project and Oppenheimer’s leadership role.

  • Dissertations examine the role of the military, Oppenheimer’s philosophy, and his scientific leadership.

  • Interviews with key figures like Hans Bethe and McGeorge Bundy provide first-hand accounts of working with Oppenheimer.

  • Archival collections offer primary source documents related to the Manhattan Project, Oppenheimer’s security case, and other key events.

In summary, these sources from a variety of perspectives help document Oppenheimer’s life and shed light on the complex nuclear era he helped usher in. Let me know if you would like me to expand on any part of this summary.

Here is a summary of the key points from the list of interview sources:

  • The list contains interviews with over 80 people connected to Oppenheimer’s life and work, including family members, colleagues, students, friends, and government officials.

  • Sources include interviews conducted by the authors, Martin Sherwin (MS) and Kai Bird (KB), as well as interviews from archives and other collections.

  • There are extensive interviews with Oppenheimer himself from 1963 and 1973.

  • Other prominent figures interviewed include Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi, Ernest Lawrence, Edward Teller, Frank Oppenheimer, Kitty Oppenheimer, and General Leslie Groves.

  • The interviews come from various archives such as the American Institute of Physics and the FBI, as well as universities like Harvard and Caltech.

  • The dates of the interviews range from the 1960s to the 2000s, capturing recollections and perspectives from across Oppenheimer’s life.

  • In total, the list demonstrates the wealth of primary sources the authors drew from to construct a multi-faceted portrait of Oppenheimer and the events surrounding him.

  • J. Robert Oppenheimer was a brilliant American theoretical physicist who spearheaded the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb during World War II.

  • Oppenheimer studied physics at Harvard and Cambridge before becoming a professor at UC Berkeley and Caltech in the 1930s. He quickly became a leading figure in the new field of quantum mechanics.

  • In 1943, Oppenheimer was chosen to direct the top-secret atomic bomb project at Los Alamos, New Mexico. Under his leadership, the team developed the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

  • After the war, Oppenheimer served as chair of the General Advisory Committee of the Atomic Energy Commission. He opposed development of the hydrogen bomb on moral grounds.

  • In 1954, Oppenheimer’s security clearance was revoked after a hearing alleging his past communist affiliations posed a risk. This marked the end of his role in government.

  • Oppenheimer continued as director of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton until his death from cancer in 1967. He remained an influential figure in physics, although the security scandal tarnished his reputation.

The Making of Vishinsky’s Moscow. He lives in Washington, D.C. Martin J. Sherwin is University Professor of History at George Mason University and the author of A World Destroyed: Hiroshima and Its Legacies. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Yahoo! ID: kai_bird (Kai Bird)

Here is a summary of the key information from the book description:

  • The book is about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the American physicist who led the effort to build the atomic bomb during World War II.

  • The authors are Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin.

  • Bird is an author and contributing editor to The Nation magazine. He has written other books on 20th century history and politics.

  • Sherwin is a professor of history at Tufts University. He has written other books on the history of the atomic bomb and its aftermath.

  • The book explores Oppenheimer’s role in the Manhattan Project to build the bomb, as well as the personal and political controversies surrounding him after the war.

  • It aims to provide a biography examining both Oppenheimer’s triumphs as a physicist and the tragedies/struggles he faced in his later career.

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