‘I was aware that, behind his affability, the inner world of Oppenheimer was something like a hundred light years away from my world, or that of any layman.’ (Karsh)
Oppenheimer was director of the Los Alamos Laboratory near Santa Fe, New Mexico, during the development of the atomic bomb. In 1943 he was instructed to establish and administer a laboratory to carry out the Manhattan Project to harness nuclear energy for military purposes. The work resulted in the first nuclear explosion on 16 July 1945 at Alamogordo in New Mexico. From 1947 to 1952 he was Chairman of the General Advisory Committee of the US Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). He came under suspicion in the 1950s because of his opposition to the development of the hydrogen bomb, and he was investigated by the AEC in 1953. He was cleared of all charges but denied access to official secrets. In 1963, however, the AEC awarded him its highest honour, the Enrico Fermi Award.