The Manhattan Project

by Nasrin Bahra and Farnoosh Falahatraftar,
PhD candidates at Polytechnique School of Montreal

Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, born in New York City in 1904, he was the director of the Los Alamos Laboratory during the development of the atomic bomb. After the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany in 1939, Oppenheimer was chosen to administer a laboratory to manage the program called Manhattan Project that developed the first nuclear weapon during World War II. In 1945, he resigned from his post and became the chairman of the General Advisory Committee of the Atomic Energy Commission. President John F. Kennedy announced Oppenheimer would receive the Enrico Fermi Award for his success in physics prior to his assassination in 1963. In December of that year, he received the award by President Lyndon B. Johnson. The “Father of the Atomic Bomb” passed away from cancer. He died at the age of 62 in Princeton, New Jersey in 1967.

In the 1930s, Oppenheimer agreed with Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard that the Nazis could produce a nuclear bomb. Following the 1939 invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany, Oppenheimer started political activities and was chosen to administer a laboratory to perform the Manhattan Project. In this project, U.S. Army carried out experiments aiming at harnessing atomic energy to produce nuclear weapons. In the beginning of 1942, the Manhattan Project was officially finished by Oppenheimer in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

The duty of making a nuclear bomb by using a new fission process uranium-235 before that Adolf Hitler could discover it was assigned to a team of scientists who had escaped fascist regimes in Europe. In 1945, the U.S. government invested a significant budget of 2 billion Dollars in the project; simultaneously the initiate test of the nuclear bomb had been successfully done. Then, during the next month, U.S. used another two bombs in Nagasaki and Hiroshima and eventually after the Second World War terminated. Oppenheimer expressed his opposing against further expansion of nuclear bomb by resigning from his position in the project in 1945 and after heavy destruction that bombs made in Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Four years later in 1949, the title of “Communist supporter” labelled to Oppenheimer after he became chairman of General Advisory Committee that worked against hydrogen bomb’s development. Afterwards, in 1953, he was excluded from secret nuclear researches. In December 1963, Oppenheimer received the Enrico Fermi Award from the U.S. President.

J. Robert Oppenheimer did not desist from his international activities to cease using nuclear bombs against humanity. He passed away in February 1967 cause of throat cancer in New Jersey. Now he is famous as "father of the atomic bomb."

- Oppenheimer, J. R., Smith, A. K., & Weiner, C. (1980). Robert Oppenheimer: Letters and recollections. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.