In the 1940s at Los Alamos in New Mexico, in great secrecy, he led the scientific effort that invented the atomic bomb. Afterward, as chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission’s main advisory body, he helped direct the nation’s postwar nuclear developments.
Oppenheimer’s downfall came amid Cold War fears over Soviet strides in atomic weaponry and Communist subversion at home. In 1953, a former congressional aide charged in a letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation that the celebrated physicist was a Soviet spy.
Troubled by the allegation, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered “a blank wall” erected between Oppenheimer and any nuclear secrets.
No evidence came to light that supported the spy charge. But the security board found that Oppenheimer’s early views on the hydrogen bomb “had an adverse effect on recruitment of scientists and the progress of the scientific effort.” He died in 1967, at 62.
Experts who have looked at the declassified transcripts say they cast startling new light on the Oppenheimer case. Dr. Polenberg of Cornell, for example, expressed bewilderment 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 war situation, had remained secret for 60 years.
(hat tip to Bjarne)