South Dakota Scientist Played Big Role in ‘Oppenheimer’
The much-lauded epic film Oppenheimer opened over the weekend. At 3 hours long, the movie, directed by Christopher Nolan, dives into the life of Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb. The film meticulously explores his early years, his experimentation, and ultimately, realizing what he created and the possibility that it could end the world.
Having seen the movie, I - much like most moviegoers - needed to dive even deeper into the real-life characters portrayed in the film.
South Dakota Scientist Played Big Role in Oppenheimer
One of the main scientists that worked with Oppenheimer was Earnest Lawrence. Lawrence was born in Canton, South Dakota. in 1901. He attended high school in Canton and attended college in Yankton at the University of South Dakota before his groundbreaking work at Berkeley, California.
In 1929 he developed a 27" piece of equipment known as a "cyclotron," which was used for electrical and magnetic fields to accelerate protons to nearly impossible speeds before they collided. In simpler terms - it was the world's first atom smasher.
Lawrence was portrayed in the film by Josh Hartnett. Lawrence's contribution to science was indeed epic and was a major part of the famed Manhattan Project and Trinity.
Lawrence was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in November 1939 for the invention of the cyclotron. According to Wikipedia, he was the first at Berkeley and the first South Dakotan to become a Nobel Laureate.
He died after returning from a trip to Switzerland at the request of President Dwight D. Eisenhower to help negotiate talks about a weapons test ban with the Soviet Union. He is buried at the Chapel of Memories Mausoleum in Oakland, California, in the Garden of Remembrance.
Oppenheimer's last words were, “Now I am become death, destroyer of worlds." It's hard to underestimate how important a moment in world history this was. It's a movie worth seeing again.