J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967)
Photo by Ulli Steltzer
Much has been written about physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who was born in 1904. The substance of his life, his intellect, his patrician manner, his leadership of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, his political affiliations and postwar military/security entanglements, and his early death from cancer, amount to a highly compelling story.
Oppenheimer served as Director of the Institute from 1947 until 1966, thus far the longest tenure of any Institute Director. He was simultaneously Chairman of the General Advisory Committee of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), from 1947 through 1952.
Born Julius Robert Oppenheimer on April 22, 1904 in New York City, Oppenheimer grew up in a Manhattan apartment adorned with paintings by van Gogh, Cézanne, and Gauguin. His father, Julius Oppenheimer, was a German immigrant who worked in his family's textile importing business. His mother, Ella Friedman, was a painter whose family had been in New York for generations. His younger brother, Frank, would also become a physicist.