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Oppenheimer: Pioneering the Atomic Age

Julius Robert Oppenheimer was an American theoretical physicist that played a significant role in one of the most daunting nuclear weapons project of the 20th century – the Manhattan Project. This Project, launched during World War II, with the codename of a city in New York, was a research and development initiative led by the United States, with support from the United Kingdom and Canada. Its primary objective was to develop the world’s first nuclear weapons.

In 1942, Oppenheimer was recruited to join the project, where he would later assume the leadership of the Los Alamos Laboratory (a secret hub established during World War II and controlled by the University of California), a critical facility tasked with the challenge of creating atomic bombs.

Image of the Atomic Bomb Dome, Japan.

The efforts of Oppenheimer’s team were evident in the creation of the first nuclear weapons. In August 1945, the world witnessed the devastating power of the atomic bomb when it was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively. These tragic events marked the first and, to this day, the only use of nuclear weapons in warfare.

The atomic bombs used for this mission were named ‘Little Boy’ and ‘Fat Man’. On August 6 of that year a ‘Little Boy’ was fired at Hiroshima, Japan and when the Japanese government reportedly ignored the demands of their opponents, a ‘Fat Man’ was then fired at Nagasaki, Japan 3 days later.

The bombing of these areas killed over 200,000 people, most of them being civilians.

These atomic bombs did not only destroy impacted areas, but its effect was also felt months after the incident, as many people continued to die from radiation sickness, injuries and compounded burns.

Oppenheimer’s contributions to the Manhattan Project earned him the title “father of the atomic bomb”. With the upcoming movie titled ‘Oppenheimer’, there are concerns about its potential to reopen old wounds for those who lost loved ones during the historical events depicted.

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