Oppenheimer’s science beyond the Manhattan Project

August 4, 2023

J. Robert Oppenheimer lectures about the legacy of Niels Bohr at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1964.

What about J. Robert Oppenheimer as a scientist stands out after all these years? Mark Paris, a theoretical physicist at Los Alamos, takes a look at some of the high points in a column for Physics Today, tracing Oppenheimer’s important contributions to the emergence of quantum theory. Oppenheimer achieved influential work in the spectral properties of molecules, offered an understanding of cosmic rays and neutron stars, and predicted what would come to be called “black holes.” Much of that work came while founding the leading school of theoretical physics in America.

Paris traces that work while also exploring Oppenheimer’s relationship with experimental physics, an appreciation that would serve him well as director of the Manhattan Project.

Read the story as it appeared in Physics Today.