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Item Added: Arms and Influence. View Wishlist. Our Awards Booktopia's Charities. Oppenheimer was a tall, thin chain smoker ,  who often neglected to eat during periods of intense thought and concentration. Many of his friends described him as having self-destructive tendencies. A disturbing event occurred when he took a vacation from his studies in Cambridge to meet up with Fergusson in Paris. Fergusson noticed that Oppenheimer was not well. To help distract him from his depression, Fergusson told Oppenheimer that he Fergusson was to marry his girlfriend Frances Keeley.
Oppenheimer did not take the news well. He jumped on Fergusson and tried to strangle him. Although Fergusson easily fended off the attack, the episode convinced him of Oppenheimer's deep psychological troubles. Throughout his life, Oppenheimer was plagued by periods of depression,   and he once told his brother, "I need physics more than friends". He was known for being too enthusiastic in discussion, sometimes to the point of taking over seminar sessions.
Born left it out on his desk where Oppenheimer could read it, and it was effective without a word being said. He obtained his Doctor of Philosophy degree in March at age 23, supervised by Born. He was on the point of questioning me. He and Born published a famous paper on the Born—Oppenheimer approximation , which separates nuclear motion from electronic motion in the mathematical treatment of molecules, allowing nuclear motion to be neglected to simplify calculations.
It remains his most cited work.
The Henry L. Stimson Lectures: Arms and Influence by Thomas C. Schelling (2008, Paperback, Revised)
Bridgman also wanted him at Harvard, so a compromise was reached whereby he split his fellowship for the —28 academic year between Harvard in and Caltech in Both the collaboration and their friendship were nipped in the bud when Pauling began to suspect Oppenheimer of becoming too close to his wife, Ava Helen Pauling. Once, when Pauling was at work, Oppenheimer had arrived at their home and invited Ava Helen to join him on a tryst in Mexico.
Though she refused and reported the incident to her husband,  the invitation, and her apparent nonchalance about it, disquieted Pauling and he ended his relationship with Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer later invited him to become head of the Chemistry Division of the Manhattan Project , but Pauling refused, saying he was a pacifist. In the autumn of , Oppenheimer visited Paul Ehrenfest 's institute at the University of Leiden , the Netherlands, where he impressed by giving lectures in Dutch, despite having little experience with the language.
There he was given the nickname of Opje ,  later anglicized by his students as "Oppie". Oppenheimer respected and liked Pauli and may have emulated his personal style as well as his critical approach to problems. Birge wanted him so badly that he expressed a willingness to share him with Caltech. Before he began his Berkeley professorship, Oppenheimer was diagnosed with a mild case of tuberculosis and spent some weeks with his brother Frank at a New Mexico ranch, which he leased and eventually purchased.
When he heard the ranch was available for lease, he exclaimed, "Hot dog! His students and colleagues saw him as mesmerizing: hypnotic in private interaction, but often frigid in more public settings. His associates fell into two camps: one that saw him as an aloof and impressive genius and aesthete, the other that saw him as a pretentious and insecure poseur. Probably the most important ingredient he brought to his teaching was his exquisite taste. He always knew what were the important problems, as shown by his choice of subjects. He truly lived with those problems, struggling for a solution, and he communicated his concern to the group.
In its heyday, there were about eight or ten graduate students in his group and about six Post-doctoral Fellows. He met this group once a day in his office, and discussed with one after another the status of the student's research problem. He was interested in everything, and in one afternoon they might discuss quantum electrodynamics, cosmic rays, electron pair production and nuclear physics. He worked closely with Nobel Prize -winning experimental physicist Ernest O.
Lawrence and his cyclotron pioneers, helping them understand the data their machines were producing at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. In return he was asked to curtail his teaching at Caltech, so a compromise was reached whereby Berkeley released him for six weeks each year, enough to teach one term at Caltech. Oppenheimer did important research in theoretical astronomy especially as related to general relativity and nuclear theory , nuclear physics , spectroscopy , and quantum field theory , including its extension into quantum electrodynamics.
The formal mathematics of relativistic quantum mechanics also attracted his attention, although he doubted its validity. His work predicted many later finds, which include the neutron , meson and neutron star. Initially, his major interest was the theory of the continuous spectrum and his first published paper, in , concerned the quantum theory of molecular band spectra. He developed a method to carry out calculations of its transition probabilities.
He calculated the photoelectric effect for hydrogen and X-rays , obtaining the absorption coefficient at the K-edge. His calculations accorded with observations of the X-ray absorption of the sun, but not helium.
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Years later it was realized that the sun was largely composed of hydrogen and that his calculations were indeed correct. Oppenheimer also made important contributions to the theory of cosmic ray showers and started work that eventually led to descriptions of quantum tunneling. In , he co-wrote a paper on the "Relativistic Theory of the Photoelectric Effect" with his student Harvey Hall,  in which, based on empirical evidence, he correctly disputed Dirac's assertion that two of the energy levels of the hydrogen atom have the same energy.
Subsequently, one of his doctoral students, Willis Lamb , determined that this was a consequence of what became known as the Lamb shift , for which Lamb was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in Oppenheimer worked with his first doctoral student, a woman named Melba Phillips , on calculations of artificial radioactivity under bombardment by deuterons. When Ernest Lawrence and Edwin McMillan bombarded nuclei with deuterons they found the results agreed closely with the predictions of George Gamow , but when higher energies and heavier nuclei were involved, the results did not conform to the theory.
In , Oppenheimer and Phillips worked out a theory—now known as the Oppenheimer—Phillips process —to explain the results; this theory is still in use today. As early as , Oppenheimer wrote a paper that essentially predicted the existence of the positron. This was after a paper by Paul Dirac proposed that electrons could have both a positive charge and negative energy. Dirac's paper introduced an equation, known as the Dirac equation , which unified quantum mechanics, special relativity and the then-new concept of electron spin , to explain the Zeeman effect.
He argued that they would have to have the same mass as an electron, whereas experiments showed that protons were much heavier than electrons. In the late s, Oppenheimer became interested in astrophysics , most likely through his friendship with Richard Tolman , resulting in a series of papers. In the first of these, a paper co-written with Robert Serber entitled "On the Stability of Stellar Neutron Cores",  Oppenheimer explored the properties of white dwarfs. This was followed by a paper co-written with one of his students, George Volkoff , "On Massive Neutron Cores",  in which they demonstrated that there was a limit, the so-called Tolman—Oppenheimer—Volkoff limit , to the mass of stars beyond which they would not remain stable as neutron stars and would undergo gravitational collapse.
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Finally, in , Oppenheimer and another of his students, Hartland Snyder , produced a paper "On Continued Gravitational Attraction",  which predicted the existence of what are today known as black holes. After the Born—Oppenheimer approximation paper, these papers remain his most cited, and were key factors in the rejuvenation of astrophysical research in the United States in the s, mainly by John A.
Oppenheimer's papers were considered difficult to understand even by the standards of the abstract topics he was expert in. He was fond of using elegant, if extremely complex, mathematical techniques to demonstrate physical principles, though he was sometimes criticized for making mathematical mistakes, presumably out of haste.
Oppenheimer published only five scientific papers, one of which was in biophysics, after World War II , and none after Murray Gell-Mann , a later Nobelist who, as a visiting scientist, worked with him at the Institute for Advanced Study in , offered this opinion:. He didn't have Sitzfleisch , 'sitting flesh,' when you sit on a chair. As far as I know, he never wrote a long paper or did a long calculation, anything of that kind.
But he inspired other people to do things, and his influence was fantastic.