J. Robert Oppenheimer. Often referred to as The Father of The Atomic Bomb, was one of several physicists who were working on the Manhattan Project, the development of a nuclear bomb during World War 2. He was director of the Los Alamos Laboratory and helped bring about the successful detonation of the first bomb on July 16, 1945 – which would later be used in the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of that year.
After the war, and as head of the newly formed General Advisory Committee of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, he campaigned for the peaceful, humane uses of Atomic Energy, and was an outspoken critic of those who wanted to continue its use as a military weapon. In doing so, he withstood the scrutiny of many during the Communist Witch Hunts of the 1950s and had, at one point, had his security clearance revoked in 1954, but was allowed to continue teaching, lecturing on Physics and writing about nuclear energy. It wasn’t until the early 1960s that he was politically rehabilitated by the government.
But Oppenheimer was a highly popular figure and voice for nuclear energy – in its peaceful use. In addition, his work in Physics and, with his students, made significant contributions in the area of Quantum Physics, Black Holes and the theories of Neutron Stars, quantum mechanics and quantum field theory. But it was the development of the Atomic Bomb which Oppenheimer will most likely always be known for. He has been seen as the embodiment of the dilemmas involving the scientist in the nuclear world, as well as the struggle between right-wing militarists and left-wing intellectuals over the moral question of weapons of mass destruction.
This lecture, given at Colorado University in 1961, covers the ground of Science and Culture; asking the questions of our moral responsibility in the nuclear age. Great lecture – timely message – sorely missed.