University of Pittsburgh, Department of Physics
On Recollections of Oppenheimer and Schwinger
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
The career of J. Robert Oppenheimer, who was born 100 years ago (on April 22, 1904), recently has been celebrated in a two-day Los Alamos Symposium, wherein I recalled my experiences as a Ph.D. student of Oppenheimer's in Berkeley, California during the period August 1938 to January 1942. I shall recount some of these recollections, concentrating on conveying a portrait of Oppenheimer as creator and inspiration of probably the most important pre-war United States school of theoretical physics. During a portion of this period (the 1940 academic year) Julian Schwinger, who shared the 1965 Nobel Prize for the development of the modern formulation of quantum electrodynamics and deservedly has been termed a genius, was employed as what today would be termed Oppenheimer's post doc. Therefore, especially because Schwinger now seems almost forgotten although he died a mere ten years ago (on July 16, 1994), I also will recall some of Schwinger's interactions with Oppenheimer and Oppenheimer's students including myself, in an attempt to convey some comprehension of Schwinger's amazing theoretical physics talents.