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Robert Oppenheimer spoke about the challenges scientists and the world faced now that atomic weapons were a reality. He also argued that new approaches were needed to govern atomic energy. I think there are issues which are quite simple and quite deep, and which involve us as a group of scientists—involve us more, perhaps than any other group in the world. I think that it can only help to look a little at what our situation is—at what has happened to us—and that this must give us some honesty, some insight, which will be a source of strength in what may be the not-too-easy days ahead. I would like to take it as deep and serious as I know how, and then perhaps come to more immediate questions in the course of the discussion later. I want anyone who feels like it to ask me a question and if I can't answer it, as will often be the case, I will just have to say so.


The final link in the Manhattan Project's far-flung network was the bomb research and development laboratory at Los Alamoslocated in the mountains of northern New Mexico.

J. robert oppenheimer

Codenamed "Project Y," the laboratory that deed and fabricated the first atomic bombs began to take shape in spring when James Conant suggested to Vannevar Bush that the Office of Scientific and Research Development and the Army form a committee to study bomb development. By the time of his appointment in late September, Leslie Groves had orders to set up a committee to study military applications of the bomb. Meanwhile, sentiment was growing among the Manhattan Project scientists that research on the bomb project needed to be better coordinated.

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Robert Oppenheimeramong others, advocated a central facility where theoretical and experimental work could be conducted according to standard scientific protocols. This would insure accuracy and speed progress.

Oppenheimer's farewell speech

Oppenheimer suggested that the bomb de laboratory operate secretly in an isolated area but allow free exchange of ideas among the scientists on the staff. Groves accepted Oppenheimer's suggestion and began seeking an appropriate location. By the end of the year, they had settled on an unlikely site for the laboratory: an isolated boys' school on a mesa high in the Jemez Mountains map at left. Groves selected Oppenheimer to head the new laboratory.

He proved to be an excellent director despite initial concerns about his administrative inexperience, leftist political sympathies, and lack of a Nobel Prize when several scientists he would be directing were prizewinners.

Time periods

Oppenheimer insisted, with some success, that scientists at Los Alamos remain as much an academic community as possible, and he proved adept at satisfying the emotional and intellectual needs of his highly distinguished staff. Although Oppenheimer and Groves were of completely different temperaments, they worked well together.

The Groves-Oppenheimer alliance, though not one of intimacy, was marked by mutual respect and was a major factor in the success of the Manhattan Project. Oppenheimer had a chance to display his persuasive abilities early when he had to convince scientists, many of them already deeply involved in war-related research in university laboratories, to his new organization.

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Complicating his task were initial plans to operate Los Alamos as a military laboratory. Oppenheimer accepted Groves's rationale for this arrangement but feared that the military chain of command was ill-suited to scientific decision making and soon found that scientists objected to working as commissioned officers.

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The issue came to a head when Oppenheimer tried to convince Robert F. Bacher and Isidor I. Neither thought a military environment was conducive to scientific research. At Oppenheimer's request, Conant and Groves wrote a letter explaining that the secret weapon-related research had presidential authority and was of the utmost national importance.

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The letter promised that the laboratory would remain civilian throughwhen it was believed that heightened security needs would require militarization of the final stages of the project in fact, militarization never took place. Oppenheimer would supervise all scientific work, and the military would maintain the post and provide security below.

Manhattan project

Oppenheimer spent the first three months of tirelessly crisscrossing the country in an attempt to put together a first-rate staff, an effort that proved highly successful. Even Bacher ed on, though he promised to re the moment militarization occurred; Rabi, though he did not move to Los Alamos, became a valuable consultant.

Virtually overnight Los Alamos became an ivory tower frontier boomtown, as scientists and their families, along with particle accelerators and other experimental equipment, including two Van de Graaff generators, a Cockroft-Walton machineand a cyclotronarrived caravan fashion at the Santa Fe railroad station and then made their way up to the mesa along the single primitive road.

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In the spring ofa sizeable contingent of British scientists arrived at Los Alamos as well. It was a most remarkable collection of talent and machinery that settled this remote outpost of the Manhattan Project.

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Sources and notes for this. The text for this was adapted from, and portions were taken directly from the Office of History and Heritage Resources publication: F. See also In the Matter of J. The map of Los Alamos is reprinted from Vincent C.

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I didn't even have a degree when I started to work with the Manhattan Project.


Several sites in the interior western United States were considered, but it was not until J.


Robert Oppenheimer was an American theoretical physicist.


I am grateful to the Executive Committee for this chance to talk to you.