J. Robert Oppenheimer epitomizes the Twentieth Century. He represents the complete triumph of applied science over human affairs at the end of the Millennium. He was a brilliant theoretical physicist who was recruited to build the most destructive weapon in history. He did so with genius.
When he saw the results of his work, at the Trinity blast of July 16, 1945, at Alamogordo, New Mexico, he was horrified. Although he supported the use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Oppenheimer believed their development and use opened a new chapter in human history, that the world now had no choice but to invent mechanisms for international arbitration, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence.
He opposed the development of the hydrogen bomb because be was convinced that its only purpose was genocidal. He spent the rest of his life advocating a breakthrough in the human consciousness that would prevent a third world war. For this he was destroyed by the American jingoists of the Cold War. His security clearance was revoked in 1954. He was rehabilitated, after a fashion, in 1963 by the Kennedy/Johnson administration, but the message had clearly been sent that the modern industrial-warfare state would not tolerate a mature moral consciousness in one of its mandarins.
J. Robert Oppenheimer has the distinction of being one of the most destructive men who ever lived on earth, and yet one of the most highly evolved, cultured, and reflective.
In the words and costume of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Clay Jenkinson explores quantum mechanics, America’s breathtaking race to build an atomic weapon before Hitler, the world of Los Alamos, and the balance of science and human values in the industrial world. Although Clay is best known for his portrayals of Thomas Jefferson (“one of the most straightforward men who ever lived”), he believes that Oppenheimer is in some respects the most interesting character he has ever developed.