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Essay about Robert Oppenheimer Atomic Age

Robert Oppenheimer and the Atomic Age Born April 22, 1904 J. Robert Oppenheimer, an American theoretical physicist, was a significant individual of the 20th century for his contributions to the Manhattan Project. Often referred to as the father of the Atomic Bomb, Oppenheimer led the scientific research and construction of the nuclear warhead from 1942 to 1945 (www. atomicarchive. com).

This bombs’ creation not only had an initial devastating impact on human life but brought about the atomic age, causing controversy and generating scientific innovation around the globe, leading to the urther application of nuclear power for both military and peaceful purposes. The fallout of the devastating bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have created a sense of fear that has affected our society on all social, political, economic and environmental fronts.

From an early age, Oppenheimer showed signs of academic genius, studying minerals, physics and chemistry. By the time he graduated from Harvard he excelled in a wide range of subjects, with his passion being physics (www. biography. com). His motivation for excelling in a wide range of academic areas of study was his need to confront and master ‘the serious business f life, which is growing wise. ‘ The historian David C. Cassidy faults Oppenheimer for lacking the single mindedness that is required for a scientific career due to having this philosophy (Algis Valiunas, Journal of Technology & Science).

In his years before the Manhattan Project, he became the founding father of the American School of Theoretical Physics and conducted important research into astrophysics, nuclear physics, the Quantum field theory and many more. Although Oppenheimer played a major role in the advancement of physics over the course of his life, his time as director of the Manhattan Project nd his contributions to the creation of the Atomic Bomb is the scientific achievement he is most famous for (www. atomicheritage. org, 2005). Oppenheimer’s research could not have been possible without the work of previous scientist during the 18th and 19th centuries. Atomic research started in 1789 with the discovery of Uranium by Martin Klaproth.

This eventually led to Wilhelm Rontgen’s research into lonising Radiation in 1895, and it was Marie and Pierre curie’s work in 1896 that led to radiation being applied for medical treatment. It was this application of radioactivity that hanged the the way the world saw radiation, planting the seed for further possible uses for this new and strange technology. During the 1930s German scientists Otto Hahn and Fritz Stassmann, building on James Chackwick’s discovery of the neutron, had a break through in their research demonstrating nuclear fusion in 1939. The discovery of Nuclear Fusion sparked activity in laboratories around the world. Further research showed that atomic fusion not only released huge amounts of energy but also shot out additional neutrons.

These neutrons cause fusions in other uranium nuclei creating a deadly chain eaction (www. worldnuclear. org). The Nuclear Fusion discovery was made in the beginning of the World War Two, giving the Nazi’s a dangerous advantage over the Allies. American scientists, such as Leo Szilard, who had emigrated from Eastern Europe tried to alert the government of this Nazi threat with little success (The Manhattan Project, Cohen, D. 1999). Albert Einstein, a prominent scientist of the time, was contacted with this troubling news and after an immense debate over whether or not such as weapon should be in the hands of any government, signed a letter to President Roosevelt.

In the letter he discussed the potential uses of the Atomic Bomb and urged the president to support scientific research into preventing the Nazi threat. Roosevelt responded by creating the Advisory Committee on Uranium in October 1939. At first the research was slow relying on restricted funding, until December 7, 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour. After declaring war on Japan and officially entering World War Two, the US invested over two billion dollars into the Manhattan Project, which was the code name for the top secret government research operation tasked with creating the Atomic Bomb before the Nazi’s (World War II: The Manhattan Project).

Oppenheimer was appointed head of the scientific research and director of the Los Alamos Laboratory June, 1942 while Brigadier General Leslie R. Groves was head of the military component of the operation (The Atomic Bomb, Jonsen, J. E, 1949). Oppenheimer was deeply involved with the process every step of the way, exploring fast neutrons, calculating how much material will be needed on the design and how efficient the design would be. It is because of this that many believe he was the inventor of the nuclear warhead, but Oppenheimer was not he only scientist who worked on or contributed to the bombs creation.

The Manhattan Project was a large scientific collaboration, with thousands of the best scientific minds collaborating and sharing ideas to achieve a common goal. Three years of original plans and problem solving came together as a test bomb code named Trinity successfully detonated on July 16th, at 5:30am 1945. The atomic age had begun (The Atomic Bomb, Jonsen, J. E, 1949). In 1945 the war was coming to end after the Allies defeated Hitler’s forces. Japan refused to surrender and the US started planning the invasion of some Japanese home islands.

Based on past experience with the Japanese tenacious defence tactics, military leaders acknowledged that the cost for these invasions would possibly cost the lives to a couple hundred thousand. The Allies had two choices, invade Japan, or unveil their new atomic weapon (The Atomic Bomb, Jonsen, J. E, 1949). At Approximately 8:15am August 6 1945 a US B-29 bomber dropped the bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, instantly killing over 80,000 people. In the months following roughly 100,000 more people died a slow, torturous death due to radiation poisoning. Three days after the Hiroshima bombings, s the Japanese Government still refused to surrender, another bomb was dropped on the town of Nagasaki killing an additional 40,000 people (www. hisotry. com, 2009).

The initial impacts of this decision were disastrous with thousands of refugees left with no homes, faced with an uncertain future. The cities were completely destroyed and the energy released from the uranium atoms splitting caused a fireball of radiation that wiped out any living thing within miles (www. education. seattlepi. com). When the bomb exploded, many civilians just outside the kill zone were blasted with xtreme amounts of heat created by the energy released from the bomb causing flash burns (www. Zazenlife. com, 2001). Others suffered radiation sickness caused from the exposure to Gemma rays, another impact of the bombs explosion. Further studies of the victims in the years after the bombings, have proven that the radiation caused from the blast, resulted in many of the survivor’s genes being altered, causing: birth defects, delayed development in babies and lower IQ. These effects still impact the families that survived the bombs to this day (www. atomicbombmuseum. org, 2014).

The mass destruction and deaths caused by the bombings had a ripple effect around the world. It forced people to ask the question: how much power is too much power, and should any government have the ability to wipe out whole cities with the push of a button? Many of the scientists who worked on the atomic bomb had been so caught up in the challenge of creating such as weapon and the threat of the Nazi’s obtaining the technology, that they had not fully considered the human toll that would be caused by the bombs use (World War II: The Manhattan Project). As discussed by the secretary of war during he Second World War, Henry L. Stimson, ‘the bomb was merely a probable weapon which seemed a weak option to rely on, but the bombs colossal reality was very different. ‘ This quote proves that it was not only the scientists and civilians that were shocked by the monstrous force of the bomb.

In a documentary depicting videos of the scientist’s reaction to the bombs destruction, Oppenheimer quoted the Hindu words, I am become death, the destroyer of worlds (The Manhattan Project, Cohen, D. 1999). Prominent scientists of the time such as Oppenheimer and Einstein became the first anti-nuclear ctivists, opposing further use of the Atomic Bomb, and in the years to come the Hydrogen Bomb (The Atomic Bomb, Jonsen, J. E, 1949). After seeing the total devastation, organisations and policies were put in place to control the use of atomic power but this became impossible to achieve as the Cold War became prominent in world politics. The political impact of the Atomic Bombs use on Japan, was the escalation of the Cold War.

This conflict was a political power struggle between the United States (US) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) due to clashing social ideologies. The onflict was sparked early in the 20th century during the Bolshevik revolution 1917 when the Russian government was overthrown and a communist regime was established. Mistrust between the two countries have been present in world politics ever since, spiking during the end of World War Two when the US refused to share their new technology with Russia (www. history. com, 2009). For many historians the use of the atomic bomb had two objectives: end to World War Two and conduct a show of power to the soviets, making it clear that the U. S were willing to use any force necessary in defence of Western Europe (The Cold War, Sewell, M, 2002).

This strategy to intimidate didn’t work on the soviets for long, for in August 29, 1949 they successfully detonated their first atomic bomb triggering the nuclear arms race that involved both countries spending billions on building their nuclear arsenals for intimidation and fear tactics. This gave every conflict in the cold war the added threat of global nuclear destruction. One example of such time was 1962, when the world froze in horror as the US, USSR and Cuba had a political stand off that could have ended in nuclear war (www. amnh. org, 2008).

The Cuban missile crisis officially started October 1962 as the leaders of the US and the USSR engaged in a tense thirteen day political and military stalemate over soviet nuclear missiles that had been placed in Cuba, 90 miles of the American coast. This event combined with the arms race heightened nuclear fear around the world spreading mass hysteria, with homes building bomb shelters and school children practicing bomb drills. Thousands watched on as the US set up a Naval blockade around Cuba and exchanged in political negotiations with the Soviet Union. By the end of the thirteen days many had prepared for all out nuclear war.

When the crisis came to an end, the world was shaken (The Cuban Missile Crisis, Chayes A. 1974). The Cuban Missile Crisis caused a shift in thinking politically, after being so close to the brink of nuclear war, measures were taken such as the policy Mutually Assured Destruction (M. A. D) and many nuclear treaties aimed at preventing the world from falling into chaos. All of these political impact of the Atomic Bomb contributed to increasing the antinuclear movement that had been becoming more popular with every new conflict involving nuclear power with Oppenheimer and many other scientists leading the charge (Chapter 8 of orksheet). [W]e have made a thing, a most terrible weapon, that has altered abruptly and profoundly the nature of the world. We have made a thing that, by all standards of the world we grew up in, is evil. – Robert Oppenheimer The anti-nuclear movement has existed before the Cuban Missile Crisis, but due to the weapons involvement in the political standoff, more critics were starting to raise their voices against the use of nuclear technology.

By the 1960’s there were more than 80 anti-nuclear groups that not only opposed the creation and development of nuclear weapons, but also nuclear power, nuclear testing and uranium mining. Some of the major players of this movement included: Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Friends of the Earth (www. nuclear-heritage. net). Scientists and politicians have debated nuclear weapons policies since the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki but as extensive nuclear weapon testing started in the pacific, the public became concerned about the social and environmental impacts of these tests.

These concerns lead to the Committee for a sane nuclear policy (SANE) in 1957 halting nuclear testing in areas that could causes environmental and social problems. This ban eventually led into the Kennedy’s 1963 nuclear test-ban treaty (www. pollutionissues. com). The idea of nuclear power as a clean energy was the first peaceful use for atomic energy after the bombings of japan, but many civilians refused to live anywhere near Nuclear Power Plant sites due to the fear of the technical difficulties occurring, either because of human fault or natural forces.

This fear seemed justified in the years to following after one of the most famous nuclear accidents happened Chornobyl 1986 due to an accident that destroyed the Chernobyl 4 reactor, killing 30 operators and several more in the three months post the disaster. Radiation drenching the landscape surround the the area for miles in Radiation. The impacts environmental and social impacts of this event mirrored that of Japan after the Atomic Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Chernobyl, illesh, A. V, 1987). This event on fuelled the fires of the Anti-Nuclear Movement that had remained escalated since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Anti-nuclear activist are still working today to ensure that the destructive power of nuclear technology is controlled and regulated around the world. J. Robert Oppenheimer’s contribution to the Atomic Bomb has had many flow on effects from causing mass hysteria to escalating a political power struggles and sparking a global antinuclear movement that continues to this day. Although he was not the soul inventor of the bomb, he was the lead scientist and contributed years of his life working on the invention that has had both positive and negative impacts on the world.

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