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Not very long ago, I wrote two rather long posts centered around the charismatic nuclear physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer:

>> Peace (Part three of this post – The Gita of J. Robert Oppenheimer)
>> American Prometheus

Since I have already written considerable amounts on Oppenheimer, I wouldn’t write more, though  I could write more. I would request readers to have a look at the above two posts.

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[J. Robert Oppenheimer]

Click to Enlarge

Just today my friend Rod informed me of a movie on Oppenheimer. Rod’s pretty much a hawk on the Internet. I suspect he either defies causality or has a number of top-secret contacts  as he comes to know of stuff before it is posted on the web. ;-)

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Robert Oppenheimer, once an inspiring character and a charismatic figure was a broken man after the security hearings of 1954, he was never the same person again. The Trials of J. Robert Oppenheimer is a very good BBC horizon like documentary on his life with a focus on the security hearings provided by PBS. It explores why Oppenheimer had to go through all the humiliation after doing such a great service to his country. It can be watched for free, even the transcripts are available here.

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Click on the above image to watch the movie

The introduction to the movie goes like this:

J. Robert Oppenheimer was brilliant, arrogant, proud, charismatic — and a national hero. Under his leadership during World War II, the United States succeeded in becoming the first nation to harness the power of nuclear energy to create the ultimate weapon of mass destruction — the atomic bomb. But after the bomb brought the war to an end, in spite of his renown and his enormous achievement, America turned on him, humiliated him, and cast him aside. The question this film asks is, “Why?”

“The country asked him to do something and he did it brilliantly, and they repaid him for the tremendous job he did by breaking him.”
— Marvin L. Goldberger, Los Alamos scientist and former director, The Institute for Advanced Studies

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE presents The Trials of J. Robert Oppenheimer, featuring Academy Award-nominated actor David Strathairn (Good Night and Good Luck, The Bourne Ultimatum) as Robert Oppenheimer. From multiple Emmy Award-winning producer David Grubin (RFK, LBJ, Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided), The Trials of J. Robert Oppenheimer features interviews with the scientist’s former colleagues and eminent scholars to present a complex and revealing portrait of one of the most important and controversial scientists of the twentieth century. The two-hour film traces the course of Oppenheimer’s life: his rarefied childhood, his troubled adolescence, his emergence as one of America’s leading nuclear physicists, his leadership of the Los Alamos laboratory, and his tragic humiliation

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As is my experience, there would be some people around who would think that Oppenheimer was a moral monster as he was instrumental in getting the bomb made and that his preachings on peace were just hypocrisy. I would not debate on that as I am spent on the matter. For knowing what I have to say on the matter I would direct the reader to this post by me – Peace (Please have a look at the third part of that post). Also Oppenheimer is not just about the bomb, he did some high quality work in theoretical physics as well.

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[JRO Smoking, Oppenheimer was a chain smoker all of his life. It turned out to be his un-doing. He died of throat cancer]

Coming back, I liked the movie quite a bit in spite of the fact that most of what is in the movie I already read about in American Prometheus (that’s obvious isn’t it?). Oppenheimer is played by David Straithairn and this 110 minute movie has been directed by David Grubin. Just like American Prometheus, the “dialogs” in the movie are from the actual transcripts of the security hearings of 1954. The movie has some rare video sequences that I have always wanted to see, like for instance Oppenheimer’s short speech after getting the Fermi Prize.

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I would have loved to write more on Oppenheimer and his life and what I get to learn from it, but I don’t think it would be a bright idea to put some very personal observations and lessons on a public platform. I might choose to do that sometime later maybe.

I’d direct you all to have a look at the movie, it has lessons for all of us in difficult times. Not just on an individual level but on a national level too. We have a lot to learn from the past.

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Related Posts:

1. American Prometheus

2. Peace. (The Gita of J. Robert Oppenheimer)

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