Discovering Oppenheimer: A Comprehensive Life Timeline

Read this article to learn about the whole life of Robert J. Oppenheimer, "the father of the atomic bomb", in one diagram.


An American theoretical and nuclear physicist known as "the father of the atomic bomb", Oppenheimer had an intriguing personality. His intellect, life purpose, leadership, scientific discoveries, political affiliations, and battle with cancer have been talked about a lot.

Only few were familiar with the name Julius Robert until the recent release of Oppenheimer. The tale of a private person who contributed significantly to the development of the nuclear bomb and regretted it undoubtedly makes a compelling story.

Are you hooked by this release and want to know more about him? Let us discuss the events and experiences that shaped the Robert Oppenheimer we know today.

In this article
  1. Who Was J. Robert Oppenhermer
  2. Oppenheimer Life Timeline
  3. How To Make a Life Timeline?
  4. Conclusion

Who Was J. Robert Oppenheimer

Julius Robert Oppenheimer was born in 1904 to a wealthy family of Julius Oppenheimer and Ella Friedman in New York. Often described as introverted and socially awkward, Oppenheimer carried an intellectual and scholarly personality. He earned professional degrees from world-leading institutions like Harvard and Cambridge.

Given his background as a prominent American theoretical physicist who investigated quantum mechanics, character of molecules, Oppenheimer Phillips process, and Born Approximation, Oppenheimer was appointed as the Los Alamos Laboratory director on the recommendation of President Truman during the Manhattan Project in 1943. His significant contributions towards the development of the atomic bomb gave him the title.

His stance on the use of nuclear energy has been controversial during the 1950s. After WWII and his infamous development of the nuclear bomb, he was appointed the chairperson of the General Advisory Committee of the newly established Atomic Energy Commission AEC in 1947. There, he opposed the creation of super bombs, as he believed they were a thousand times more powerful and had the ability to cause irreversible damage.

During the final years of his life, he was accused of holding communist sympathies, for which his security clearance was denied. After this incident, his first public appearance was at the Columbia University address, where he outlined man's right to knowledge and the role of modern science in today's world. He died in 1967 of throat cancer at the age of 62.

Oppenheimer Life Timeline

Learn about Oppenheimer's whole life through this diagram made with the timeline maker of EdrawMax. If you are interested in making such a stunning timeline on your own, download the software program and try it for free.


1904 - Born to Julius and Ella Friedman Oppenheimer

Julius Oppenheimer, a wealthy textile importer of German descent, and Ella Friedman, a Jewish painter whose family has been settled in New York for ages, gave birth to Robert Oppenheimer on April 22, 1904, in New York. Years later, in 1912, his brother Frank was born, who would also become a physicist.


1921- Graduation from the Ethical Culture School, New York

He graduated from the Ethical Cultural School Society. This school was later used as a secret facility for the Manhattan Project at Oppenheimer's suggestion.

After graduation, he contracted dysentery and couldn't join college. He spent the spring of 1922 with his father in New Mexico, where he learned his passion for riding horses.

1922 - Entered Harvard University

Oppenheimer entered Harvard University in the fall of 1922 to study Chemistry. However, he later switched to Physics. Introverted yet highly studious, he completed the degree in just three years.

1925 - Cambridge University's Cavendish Laboratory Research Assistance

In 1925, he went to England after getting accepted at the Cambridge University Laboratory as a research assistant under JJ Thomson. During this time, he advanced his atomic research in collaboration with the British scientific community, partially led by Ernest Rutherford.

1926 - Ph.D. from the University of Gottingen

Soon after, he was invited to the University of Gottingen by Max Born, where he met renowned physicists like Neil Bohr and PAM Dirac. Here, he and Born published academic papers on the advancement of quantum mechanics.

Professional life

1927 - Returned to Harvard University

In 1927, he received the University of Gottingen doctorate and returned to Harvard as a Research Council Fellow. Here, he carried out research on the structure of molecules and produced the infamous Born-Oppenheimer Approximation research. He also briefly worked with the California Institute of Technology, Zurich, and Leyden during this year.

1928 - California Institute of Technology Assistant Professorship

He received the assistant professorship offers from Caltech and the University of California, Berkeley, and divided his time to provide assistance to future physicists.

Personal life

1940 - Marriage with Katherine Puening Harrison

After the death of his father in 1937, he inherited the property and became wealthy. 1940 marked his marriage with Katherine Puening Harrison, also known as Kitty, a German-American biologist and botanist.

1941 - Their First child Peter was born

In 1941, the couple had their first child named Peter. Three years later, in 1944, they had their daughter Katherine (also called Toni).

The Manhattan Project

1942 - Appointed as the Scientific Director of the Manhattan Project

General Leslie Groves appointed Oppenheimer as the scientific director of the Manhattan Project in 1942. The project was introduced under President Truman to develop the atomic bomb against the WW-II enemies.

Oppenheimer suggested dividing secret laboratories across Tennessee, Los Alamos, New Mexico, Oak Ridge, and the University of Chicago. He specifically was based in Los Alamos Laboratory, where he oversaw the atomic bomb construction, which is why he came to be known as the "father of the atomic bomb".

1945 - Trinity explosion

July 16, 1945, marked the explosion of the first Los Alamos Laboratory-produced nuclear bomb at Alamagordo, known as Trinity.

After the Manhattan Project

1947-52 - Appointed to the Chairman General Advisory Committee AEC (Atomic Energy Commission)

When the Second World War ended, the government replaced the Manhattan facility with the AEC Atomic Energy Commission. Here, Oppenheimer served as the Chairman of the General Advisory Committee from 1947 to 1952. However, he opposed the development of hydrogen bombs, given their thousand times more destruction intensity than the already produced bombs.  

1953 - Accused of Communist Sympathies

The Anti-communist sentiments were at their peak in the USA during the 1950s, led by Senator Joseph McCarthy. So, given his background, Oppenheimer, in 1952, was subjected to an investigation and denied a security clearance, resulting in him losing his position at AEC.

1963 - Honored with the AEC's Enrico Fermi Award

In 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson denied the accusations against Robert Oppenheimer and honored him with the AEC's Enrico Fermi Award.

Up until 1966 - Director of Princeton's Institute of Advanced Study

Between the 1950s and 60s, Oppenheimer also worked as Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study's director, where he introduced new discussions on quantum and relative physics. He retired from the institution in 1966.


1967 - Died of throat cancer

One year after his retirement, Robert Oppenheimer died in February 1967 of throat cancer.

How To Make a Life Timeline?

Intrigued by the timeline of historical figures? Well, it's super easy to create the life timeline of any personality. Here are the simple steps:

Before diving into the steps, you will need to download the EdrawMax desktop version and register your email. Already done? Let's start then.

Step 1: Select a template

Visit the Template Gallery from the dashboard and click Timelin. It will display multiple templates. Scroll down to find the perfect match for your task, and press Use Immediately. Doing this will open the template's components in the editing panel.

create a timeline

Step 2: Customize the timeline

You can add or remove the timeline symbols from the left-side symbol library. Now that the timeline layout is complete, you can double-click any box and start writing. Once done, change the formatting of the diagram using themes, color schemes, font styles, and more.

create a timeline

Step 3: Download and share

Finally, your timeline is good to go. Download it in a preferred format from the quick-access top toolbar. It further allows you to share it with social media friends or publish it on the EdrawMind template community from the top-right corner.

create a timeline


A number of plays, books, and documentaries have been made on the life of Robert Oppenheimer. However, nothing got the audience's attention as the new cinematic release of Oppenheimer, depicting his ethical dilemma, personal life, role in the Manhattan Project, and post-war ideology.

The movie's popularity has led to the public discussing the creation of the atomic bomb, political decisions, and the irreversible damage caused by it. Looking for a deeper understanding of the substance of his life? Check out the Oppenheimer life timeline.

Edraw Team
Edraw Team May 23, 24
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