- Politics and Social Issues
A few interesting facts about J Robert Oppenheimer,' father' of Atomic bomb
Security clearance of J Robert Oppenheimer,father of Atomic Bomb
J Robert Oppenheimer stands the tallest among the nuclear scientists who changed the course of human history.There are many stories about him. His biography is interesting to students of science , history of 2nd world war and US history of 1940s to 1960s.
I came across a feature on him in a compilation titled 'A History of Physics'.The paragraphs of a box titled "Los Almos and after' caught my attention. Later,I read his biography in wikipedia to find out what led to withdrawal of his security clearance during 1950s.
I need not repeat the facts stated in the article. If one is interested, one can refer to the relevant paragraphs under:
What strikes a reader, who does not belong either to the US society or 1950s, is how badly Oppenheimer was treated by the politicians of the USA when his usefulness to the state was not that much.He wrote on 10th August,1931 :-
'I think that the world in which we shall live these next 30 years will be a pretty restless and tormented place.I do not think much of a compromise possible between being of it, and not being of it.'
Everyone knows that after World War II started, he was a big part of the larger SCENE. I try to think what went within him when the process of 'not being of it' struck him with full force and his security clearance was withdrawn a few days before it would have expired, just to subject him to public humiliation.
We learn that he did not show rancour and continued in his course of life.He continued to lecture, write, and work on physics. He travelled across Europe and Japan, giving talks about the history of science, the role of science in society, and the nature of the universe.His public recognition came when he was elected a Fellow of Royal Society in 1962.
A week after his ascedency to Presidential position, Lyndon Johnson awarded Oppenheimer with the Enrco Fermi Award "for contributions to theoretical physics as a teacher and originator of ideas, and for leadership of the Los Alamos Laboratory and the atomic energy program during critical years". That was 1963.
Reaction of Oppenheimer makes the point .He stated :
"I think it is just possible, Mr. President, that it has taken some charity and some courage for you to make this award today."
Oppenheimer did not get back his security clearance. But, Jacqueline Kennedy, still living in the White House, made it a point to meet Oppenheimer to convey to him how much her husband , JFK,had wanted him to have the medal.
An intersting point here : Lewis Strauss was an AEC Commissioner in the early 1950s and instrumental in setting the course of humiliation of Oppenheimer. While still a congressman in 1959, JFK had been instrumental in voting to narrowly deny Lewis Strauss, a coveted government position as Secretary of Commerce , effectively ending Strauss' political career.