Manhattan Project Scientists: J. Robert Oppenheimer

A black and white photo of a man angled away from the camera.
J. Robert Oppenheimer led the design and development of the first atomic bombs.


Quick Facts
"Father" of the Atomic Bomb
Place of Birth:
New York, NY
Date of Birth:
April 22, 1904
Place of Death:
Princeton, NJ
Date of Death:
February 18, 1967
Place of Burial:
Cremated (ashes spread in Caribbean Sea)

Born in New York City in 1904, Oppenheimer is often referred to as the “father of the atomic bomb”. A theoretical physicist, he received his PhD from Germany’s University of Gottingen in 1927 and joined the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley and Caltech the same year. In 1942, General Leslie Groves, leader of the Manhattan Project, appointed Oppenheimer to lead Site Y, the secret weapons research and development facility at Los Alamos, New Mexico. Oppenheimer served as director of the Los Alamos Laboratory until 1945. During this time, Oppenheimer led the effort to design and construct the world’s first atomic bombs, culminating with the successful Trinity test on July 16, 1945.

After the war, Oppenheimer served as an advisor to the Atomic Energy Commission, worked at Caltech, and became director for the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. In the 1950s, at the height of the communist “Red Scare”, Oppenheimer’s past perceived communist leanings and his speaking out against the development of the hydrogen bomb led the Atomic Energy Commission to revoke his security clearance, effectively ending his political influence. Oppenheimer died of throat cancer in 1967.

Manhattan Project National Historical Park

Last updated: September 26, 2023