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Linocut portrait of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, History of Science Lino Block Portrait, Quantum Physics, Astrophysics, Black Hole

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This is a linocut portrait of J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967). It is printed in indigo and orange by hand on lovely Japanese kozo (or mulberry paper), 9.25" by 12.5" (23.5 cm by 32 cm) in an edition of 14.

While best remembered for his role in the Manhattan Project, the development of the atomic bomb during the second world war, Oppenheimer was one of the giants of theoretical physics of the 20th century, with wide interests and influence on generations of physicists. While not a Nobel laureate, he was nominated on three occasions. I've shown him with two diagrams to illustrate some of his most important work.

Early in his career, Oppenheimer worked with the renown German physicist Max Born. In 1927 they came up with a way to greatly simplify how we predict how electrons behave within atoms. The Born-Oppenheimer or adiabatic approximation is based on the observation that the electrons are much lighter particles than the nuclei. The nucleus of an atom is typically thousands or tens of thousands times heavier than an electron. So electrons bound to those atomic nuclei, in what we call a potential well, move much more rapidly than the nuclei. In quantum chemistry and molecular physics, this means that the motions can be considered separately (or as a physicist would say, we can separate the wavefunctions). The electrons are bound in an effective potential well called the Born-Oppenheimer surface; these are the wide copper-coloured U shaped curves. The lower curve is for the ground state and the upper curve is for the first excited shape. Within each well the energy levels are quantized; this means that the electrons are only allowed to be on a series of specific energy levels; these are the stepped horizontal lines within the U's. The diagram shows, as Born and Oppenheimer postulated, that the difference (the vertical separation) between the two curves is much larger than the difference between the quantized energy levels - so in a nutshell, only have to worry about one type of motion at a time. This approximation is invaluable in the computation of waveforms.

His interests ranged the span of physics. With his graduate student Melba Phillips, he explained how heavy hydrogen or deuterium could induce a type of nuclear reaction when the neutron half of an energetic deuteron fuses with a target nucleus, transmuting the target to a heavier isotope while ejecting a proton. This is now known as the Oppenheimer-Phillips process.

When Dirac showed that the electron should have a positively-charged counterpart, Oppenheimer understood that this could not be the proton. As early as 1930, he predicted the existence of the positron (the anti-matter opposite of the electron). Carl David Anderson discovered the positron, in 1932, and received the Nobel prize for his achievement in 1936.

On the massive, astrophysical scale, Oppenheimer became interested neutron stars. He worked with students and colleagues on the physics of neutron stars and White Dwarfs. Research with Richard Tolman and George Volkoff resulted in their calculation of the Tolman-Oppenheimer-Volkoff limit for the mass of neutron stars; beyond this limit the nuclear forces are no longer able to withstand gravitational collapse. With Hartland Snyder he continued on this theme, looking at gravitational attraction under these conditions and essentially predicted the existence of black holes! Nobel laureate Luiz Alvarez believed that had Oppenheimer lived longer this work on gravitational collapse might have gained Oppenheimer a Nobel.

His interests in fact spanned much more than physics. He learned Sanskrit to read the Bhagavad Gita in the original. After the Trinity test in New Mexico, the first detonation of an atomic bomb, July 16, 1945, Oppenheimer famously remarked, that it brought to mind words from the Bhagavad Gita: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

His scientific output was not prodigious, but the papers he did write were important an influential. Perhaps his greatest skills were in mentoring and getting the best work out of people; as a professor at Berkley and Caltech prior to the war, during the Manhattan Project and at the Institute of Advanced Study after the war. Though he was also known as a challenging character, quite capable of making enemies, and subject to depression. He apparently had such an antagonistic relationship with his Cambridge tutor, future Nobel laureate Patrick Blackett, that he left a poisoned apple on his desk. In Göttingen, where he worked with Born, and such luminaries as Heisenberg, Pauli, Dirac, Fermi and Teller, he so annoyed the other students, that future Nobel laureate Maria Goeppert presented Born with a petition from the students threatening to boycott classes if Oppenheimer didn't shut up. Not to mention his personal life, which was messy, complicated by extra-marital affairs (including once with Tolman's wife).

Like many intellectuals he supported progressive efforts and anti-fascist activity in the 1930s which was later branded left-wing during the McCarthy era. He had a lover who wrote for a Communist Part newspaper, and certainly knew people who were members of the Party. The FBI was aware of this when he was working on the Manhattan Project, but he was viewed as invaluable to the project - as indeed he proved to be. Long after the success of the project, his continued involvement in the Atomic Energy Commission, and his position as a national spokesperson for science, in 1949, Oppenheimer was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, where he admitted that he had associations with the Communist Party in the 1930s, and named several students and his brother as communists at the time. Through 1953, he found himself in the middle of controversy and power struggles, which ultimately lead to being stripped of his security clearance. Oppenheimer chose not to resign and requested a hearing instead. Oppenheimer's clearance was revoked one day before it was due to lapse anyway. Because of the ugliness of the trial, he is viewed as a martyr to McCarthyism, attacked for reasons of politics and personal enmity (particularly of AEC commissioner Lewis Strauss), though in truth, he also named names. But, there is no evidence he was ever disloyal to his country and there is no justification for his public humiliation.

Stripped of political power, he continued to travel, lecture and work on physics. He lectured on the history of science, science and society and the nature of the universe. France made him Officer of the Legion of Honor in 1957. In 1962, he was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society in Britain. President John F. Kennedy awarded Oppenheimer the Enrico Fermi Award in 1963 as a gesture of political rehabilitation. President Lyndon Johnson, presented Oppenheimer with the award, "for contributions to theoretical physics as a teacher and originator of ideas, and for leadership of the Los Alamos Laboratory and the atomic energy program during critical years," a week after Kennedy was assassinated.

A life-long smoker, he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1965. He died at his home in Princeton in 1967.

You can find more of my science and scientist-themed prints here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/minouette?section_id=6820498
This is a linocut portrait of J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967). It is printed in indigo and orange by hand on lovely Japanese kozo (or mulberry paper), 9.25" by 12.5" (23.5 cm by 32 cm) in an edition of 14.

While best remembered for his role in the Manhattan Project, the development of the atomic bomb during the second world war, Oppenheimer was one of the giants of theoretical physics of the 20th century, with wide interests and influence on generations of physicists. While not a Nobel laureate, he was nominated on three occasions. I've shown him with two diagrams to illustrate some of his most important work.

Early in his career, Oppenheimer worked with the renown German physicist Max Born. In 1927 they came up with a way to greatly simplify how we predict how electrons behave within atoms. The Born-Oppenheimer or adiabatic approximation is based on the observation that the electrons are much lighter particles than the nuclei. The nucleus of an atom is typically thousands or tens of thousands times heavier than an electron. So electrons bound to those atomic nuclei, in what we call a potential well, move much more rapidly than the nuclei. In quantum chemistry and molecular physics, this means that the motions can be considered separately (or as a physicist would say, we can separate the wavefunctions). The electrons are bound in an effective potential well called the Born-Oppenheimer surface; these are the wide copper-coloured U shaped curves. The lower curve is for the ground state and the upper curve is for the first excited shape. Within each well the energy levels are quantized; this means that the electrons are only allowed to be on a series of specific energy levels; these are the stepped horizontal lines within the U's. The diagram shows, as Born and Oppenheimer postulated, that the difference (the vertical separation) between the two curves is much larger than the difference between the quantized energy levels - so in a nutshell, only have to worry about one type of motion at a time. This approximation is invaluable in the computation of waveforms.

His interests ranged the span of physics. With his graduate student Melba Phillips, he explained how heavy hydrogen or deuterium could induce a type of nuclear reaction when the neutron half of an energetic deuteron fuses with a target nucleus, transmuting the target to a heavier isotope while ejecting a proton. This is now known as the Oppenheimer-Phillips process.

When Dirac showed that the electron should have a positively-charged counterpart, Oppenheimer understood that this could not be the proton. As early as 1930, he predicted the existence of the positron (the anti-matter opposite of the electron). Carl David Anderson discovered the positron, in 1932, and received the Nobel prize for his achievement in 1936.

On the massive, astrophysical scale, Oppenheimer became interested neutron stars. He worked with students and colleagues on the physics of neutron stars and White Dwarfs. Research with Richard Tolman and George Volkoff resulted in their calculation of the Tolman-Oppenheimer-Volkoff limit for the mass of neutron stars; beyond this limit the nuclear forces are no longer able to withstand gravitational collapse. With Hartland Snyder he continued on this theme, looking at gravitational attraction under these conditions and essentially predicted the existence of black holes! Nobel laureate Luiz Alvarez believed that had Oppenheimer lived longer this work on gravitational collapse might have gained Oppenheimer a Nobel.

His interests in fact spanned much more than physics. He learned Sanskrit to read the Bhagavad Gita in the original. After the Trinity test in New Mexico, the first detonation of an atomic bomb, July 16, 1945, Oppenheimer famously remarked, that it brought to mind words from the Bhagavad Gita: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

His scientific output was not prodigious, but the papers he did write were important an influential. Perhaps his greatest skills were in mentoring and getting the best work out of people; as a professor at Berkley and Caltech prior to the war, during the Manhattan Project and at the Institute of Advanced Study after the war. Though he was also known as a challenging character, quite capable of making enemies, and subject to depression. He apparently had such an antagonistic relationship with his Cambridge tutor, future Nobel laureate Patrick Blackett, that he left a poisoned apple on his desk. In Göttingen, where he worked with Born, and such luminaries as Heisenberg, Pauli, Dirac, Fermi and Teller, he so annoyed the other students, that future Nobel laureate Maria Goeppert presented Born with a petition from the students threatening to boycott classes if Oppenheimer didn't shut up. Not to mention his personal life, which was messy, complicated by extra-marital affairs (including once with Tolman's wife).

Like many intellectuals he supported progressive efforts and anti-fascist activity in the 1930s which was later branded left-wing during the McCarthy era. He had a lover who wrote for a Communist Part newspaper, and certainly knew people who were members of the Party. The FBI was aware of this when he was working on the Manhattan Project, but he was viewed as invaluable to the project - as indeed he proved to be. Long after the success of the project, his continued involvement in the Atomic Energy Commission, and his position as a national spokesperson for science, in 1949, Oppenheimer was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, where he admitted that he had associations with the Communist Party in the 1930s, and named several students and his brother as communists at the time. Through 1953, he found himself in the middle of controversy and power struggles, which ultimately lead to being stripped of his security clearance. Oppenheimer chose not to resign and requested a hearing instead. Oppenheimer's clearance was revoked one day before it was due to lapse anyway. Because of the ugliness of the trial, he is viewed as a martyr to McCarthyism, attacked for reasons of politics and personal enmity (particularly of AEC commissioner Lewis Strauss), though in truth, he also named names. But, there is no evidence he was ever disloyal to his country and there is no justification for his public humiliation.

Stripped of political power, he continued to travel, lecture and work on physics. He lectured on the history of science, science and society and the nature of the universe. France made him Officer of the Legion of Honor in 1957. In 1962, he was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society in Britain. President John F. Kennedy awarded Oppenheimer the Enrico Fermi Award in 1963 as a gesture of political rehabilitation. President Lyndon Johnson, presented Oppenheimer with the award, "for contributions to theoretical physics as a teacher and originator of ideas, and for leadership of the Los Alamos Laboratory and the atomic energy program during critical years," a week after Kennedy was assassinated.

A life-long smoker, he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1965. He died at his home in Princeton in 1967.

You can find more of my science and scientist-themed prints here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/minouette?section_id=6820498

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Linocut portrait of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, History of Science Lino Block Portrait, Quantum Physics, Astrophysics, Black Hole

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Overview

  • Handmade item
  • Height: 12.5 Inches
  • Width: 9.25 Inches
  • Materials: linoleum, paper, Japanese kozo paper, washi
  • Feedback: 370 reviews
  • Favorited by: 10 people
  • Gift wrapping and message available
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