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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

J. Robert Oppenheimer After 68 Years, the “Black Mark” Has Been Removed

On Friday, the Secretary of Energy reversed a decision made in 1954 to revoke J. Robert Oppenheimer’s security clearance. Oppenheimer was a top government scientist who led the making of the atomic bomb during World War II but fell under suspicion of being a Soviet spy at the height of the McCarthy era. The decision to revoke his clearance was made during the height of the McCarthy era.

Jennifer M. Granholm, the current Secretary of Energy, issued a statement in which she explained that the decision of her predecessor agency, the Atomic Energy Commission, to deny Oppenheimer clearance was the result of a “flawed process” that violated the agency’s own regulations. Granholm’s comments were made in response to a question about why the clearance was denied.

She went on to say that as more time had gone, “more evidence has come to light of the prejudice and injustice of the process that Dr. Oppenheimer was exposed to while the proof of his patriotism and love of nation have only been further confirmed.”

Historians, who have been fighting for a long time to get the clearance revocation overturned, have lauded the vacating ruling as a significant step forward in the fight.

“I’m filled with emotion,” said Kai Bird, who collaborated with Martin J. Sherwin on the biography of Oppenheimer that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2005 and was titled “American Prometheus.”

Mr. Bird was quoted as saying, “History is important, and what happened to Oppenheimer in 1954 was a farce and a bad scar on the honour of the country.” “Now that the last chapter has been published, students of American history will be able to read it and know that what happened to Oppenheimer in that kangaroo court hearing was not the final word,” the author writes.

The film adaptation of Mr. Bird and Mr. Sherwin’s book Oppenheimer will soon be released, and it was directed by Christopher Nolan. On Thursday, a trailer for the next film titled “Oppenheimer” started showing in cinemas around the country.

The turnaround has been described as long overdue by Alex Wellerstein, a historian of science at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.

“I’m sure it doesn’t go as far as Oppenheimer and his family would have desired,” he added. “I’m sure it doesn’t go as far as anybody would have wanted.” However, it extends quite a bit. This does not make up for the wrong that was done to Oppenheimer in the past. However, it is heartening to see some kind of reaction and healing, although many years after the fact.

In April and May of 1954, the Atomic Energy Commission decided to terminate Oppenheimer’s security clearance. This decision came after 19 days of closed-door hearings. Oppenheimer’s career was brought to an embarrassing halt as a result of the action, which also prevented him from gaining access to the government’s atomic secrets. He was a hero of American science up to that point, but he spent the rest of his life as a shattered man, and he passed away in 1967 at the age of 62.

In 2014, the Obama administration made available to the general public hundreds of papers from the commission’s secret sessions that had just been declassified. The evidence gave the impression that Oppenheimer had not been acting in a disloyal manner in any way.

Historians and nuclear specialists who reviewed the declassified information, which made up about a tenth of the hearing transcripts, came to the conclusion that it did not include any damaging evidence against him, and that the testimony, on the whole, tended to exonerate him.

Richard Polenberg, a historian at Cornell University who edited a much earlier, sanitised version of the commission’s hearings, said in 2014 that “it’s hard to understand why it was classified.” Polenberg was referring to the commission’s decision to keep the hearings secret.

Oppenheimer was an eccentric genius who enjoyed smoking pipes and wearing porkpie hats. He grew up in a beautiful building on Riverside Drive in Manhattan, attended the Ethical Culture School, and graduated from Harvard in three years. He was also known for his love of porkpie hats. After completing his education in Europe, he moved to Berkeley to teach physics at the University of California.

When he was a young professor, he was racing a train in his automobile, and the accident that ensued rendered his lover comatose. The young lady was presented by his father with an artwork by Cézanne.

In the 1930s, Oppenheimer, like with many other political liberals, was a member of organisations that were either headed or infiltrated by Communists. His brother, his wife, and his ex-fiancée were all members of the Communist Party.

The experts who looked over the declassified transcripts noted that they provided a lot of new insight into the well-known case. For instance, Dr. Polenberg of Cornell expressed utter bewilderment at the fact that 12 pages of testimony from Lee A. DuBridge, a friend and colleague of Oppenheimer’s who discussed the atomic trade-offs and the European standoff with the Soviet Union, had been kept under wraps for the past 60 years. DuBridge testified about the atomic trade-offs and the European standoff with the Soviet Union.

A Boyle
A Boyle
I cover Science related topics for The National Era
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