Robert Oppenheimer

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Overview


Robert Oppenheimer was born in April 22, 1904 and passed away in February 18, 1967. He was an American

theoretical physicist and he was a professor at a very prestigious university, the University of California, Berkeley.
Oppenheimer is also known as the "father of the atomic bomb" because he was so critical to the Manhattan Project.
The Manhattan Project is the project during World War II that developed the first nuclear weapons.

Early Life



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Oppenheimer was born in New York City on April 22, 1904. His father was a wealthy Jewish textile importer and his mother Ella Friedman was a painter. Oppenheimer was a very smart kid since an early age. He was able to finish third and fourth grade all in one year. And then only complete ninth grade in half a year. He then attended Harvard University where he found a passion for chemistry. Oppenheimer later majored in Chemistry. He also suffered from tuberculosis. Oppenheimer was admitted to the undergraduate honor society Phi Beta Kappa.

Career
Greek style buildings and a clock tower.
Greek style buildings and a clock tower.



After graduating from college, Oppenheimer moved to do several other remarkable discoveries. Many colleges and universities wanted him to teach at their schools. However, he chose to work for University of California, Berkeley. Caltech also wanted to hire Oppenheimer so they made a deal where six weeks out of the year, Oppenheimer would work for Caltech and for the rest of the time, he would work for University of California Berkeley. He was loved by his students and many aspired to be like him.
He worked closely with physicist Ernest Lawrance and his pioneers, helping them understand the data their machines were producing at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. In 1936 Berkeley promoted him to full professor at a salary of $3,300 per annum.

Scientific Discoveries


Oppenheimer worked on many different projects and made significant discoveries. Oppenheimer did important research in theoretical astronomy, nuclear physics, spectroscopy, and quantum field theory. His work predicted many later finds, which include the neutron, meson, and neutron star.

Oppenheimer also calculated the photoelectric effect for hydrogen and X-rays, obtaining the absorption coefficient at the K-edge. His calculations accorded with observations of the X-ray absorption of the sun, but not hydrogen. Years later it was realized that the sun was largely composed of hydrogen and that his calculations were indeed correct.
Oppenheimer also made important contributions to the theory of cosmic ray showers and started work that eventually led to descriptions of quantum tunneling. In 1931 he co-wrote a paper on the "Relativistic Theory the Photoelectric Effect" with his student Harvey Hall, in which, based on empirical evidence, he correctly disputed Dirac's assertion that two of the energy levels of the hydrogen atom have the same energy.


As early as 1930, Oppenheimer wrote a paper essentially predicting the existence of the positron after a paper by Dirac proposed that electrons could have both a positive charge and negative energy. The paper introduced the Dirac equation, a unification of quantum mechanics, and the then-new concept of electron spin, to explain the Zeeman effect. Oppenheimer, drawing on the body of experimental evidence, rejected the idea that the predicted positively charged electrons were protons. He argued that they would have to have the same mass as an electron, whereas experiments showed that protons were much heavier than electrons. Two years later, Carl Davie Anderson discovered the positron, for which he received the 1936 Nobel Prize in Physics.
Oppenheimer was nominated for the Nobel Prize for physics three times, in 1945, 1951 and 1967, but never won.




Atomic Bomb
Before the United States entered World War II, FDR approved of a project to create an atomic bomb. After years of working as a professor, Oppenheimer got chosen to do work on this project. After the group was created, they decided to create a lab in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Oppenheimer was the leader of the group, that in 1945 was made up of 6000 people. Oppenheimer succeeded at leading the group, and handling their differences. Another lab shipped the Lamos people plutonium to use for guns so that they could be used during the war. However, soon after he realized that plutonium would be better if it were used for an implosion type of weapon. Using chemical explosive lenses, a critical sphere of fissile material could be squeezed into a smaller and denser form. The metal needed to travel only very short distances, so the critical mass would be assembled in much less time.
Oppenheimer is a very famous and smart scientist. He is considered the "father of the atomic bomb" because of his work and research in creating the first ever atomic bomb and helping to advance in nuclear energy.

He was later asked to work on the Hydrogen Bomb since he was so successful in the atomic bomb, however, he refused to do so. Because he rejected the offer, he was considered un-American and a communist. He then went on to work for Princeton University. However, he was always accused to be un-patriotic by the McCarthyist.




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Sources:



http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/baoppe.html

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/bomb/peopleevents/pandeAMEX65.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._Robert_Oppenheimer

http://www.nndb.com/people/808/000047667/