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Citizen Kurchatov: Stalin's Bomb Maker


J. Robert Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer was the American equivalent to Kurchatov. They were both considered young when chosen to lead their countries' bomb programs (Oppenheimer was one year younger than Kurchatov), and both worked in their later years to prevent nuclear war.

Oppenheimer displayed an early aptitude in science and earned his college degree in chemistry in only three years at Harvard. He continued his graduate studies at both the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University (where Kapitsa had worked earlier) and the Gottigen University in Germany in the 1920's.

He had many academic interests, including studying Sanskrit. In the documentary Citizen Kurchatov: Stalin's Bomb Maker, Oppenheimer quotes the god Shiva from the Bagavad Gita: "Now I am become death, the destroyer of Worlds."

After the Manhattan Project concluded with the bombing of Japan, Oppenheimer returned to academic life. He also spoke out against nuclear weapons, and he was accused of being a communist sympathizer. Unlike Kurchatov, Oppenheimer was treated as an outsider after the war and his security clearance was removed.

Oppenheimer, a habitual smoker, died from throat cancer in 1967.


Both Kurchatov and Oppenheimer hired their younger brothers (also talented physicists) to work on their bomb projects.

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