Reflections from 1967 on Oppenheimer’s legacy and impact on the Bulletin

By A Bulletin editorial | July 20, 2023

Robert J. Oppenheimer, who is often called "the father of the atomic bomb," was the first chairman of the Bulletin’s board of sponsors.Robert J. Oppenheimer, who is often called "the father of the atomic bomb," was the first chairman of the Bulletin’s board of sponsors.

This October 1967 article by the Bulletin’s editorial board commemorated Oppenheimer’s impact as the first chairman of the Bulletin’s board of sponsors following his death in February 1967. The board highlighted Oppenheimer’s lengthy list of contributions to science, his controversial security investigation, and his friendship with the Bulletin. 

This article appears here as part of our 2023 summer archive dive, which resurfaces a timeless Bulletin article each week. 


Robert Oppenheimer was the first Chairman of the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin. He was the first of the outstanding American scientists to acquire great influence in national affairs—a wartime leader of the atomic bomb laboratory in Los Alamos, the first chairman of the General Advisory Committee of the new Atomic Energy Commission, and the true author of the Acheson-Lilienthal report, which provided a blueprint for international control of atomic energy.

This rise to independent political eminence brought him the distrust of some members of the Department of Defense—a distrust that was aggravated by his objections to the development of the thermonuclear bomb. They used his pre-war friendship with communists and his advocacy of left-wing causes (already well-known to the government when General Groves appointed him head of the Los Alamos laboratory) to destroy him.

His security investigation will become one of history’s causes célèbres. It ended with Oppenheimer’s separation from classified information, and his assumption of the directorship of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in 1947. He thus returned to his original role as a gifted organizer and teacher of theoretical physics. Under his leadership, the Princeton Institute became the foremost center of theoretical physics in America; a home in exile for Albert Einstein; a place where such men as Niels Bohr, Paul Dirac, and Wolfgang Pauli spent years or months in a congenial climate of intense intellectual activity …

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