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The Understanding Between J Robert Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein

Oppenheimer movie accurately portrays conversation between Oppenheimer and Einstein.

In May 2023, the second full trailer for the film Oppenheimer was released, causing quite a stir among viewers. However, it wasn't the incredible visuals that caught people's attention - it was the portrayal of Albert Einstein. The trailer briefly showed Einstein, played by Tom Conti, meeting with J Robert Oppenheimer, portrayed by Cillian Murphy. This sparked curiosity among viewers who wondered if the two scientists had actually crossed paths in real life or if the film took some creative liberties with history.

Now that Oppenheimer is in theaters, we have a better understanding of the pivotal conversation between Oppenheimer and Einstein. The scene takes place at the Institute for Advanced Science, where Oppenheimer served as director from 1947 onwards, and where Einstein had been since fleeing Germany in 1933.

Initially, the trailer only hints at the conversation, leaving viewers in suspense. It is not until the final moments of the movie that we learn they were discussing the atomic bomb and its impact on the world. While we cannot say for certain if the conversation happened exactly as depicted in the film, it is true that Oppenheimer and Einstein knew each other at the institute. As the movie highlights, they had differing views on quantum physics but shared a mutual respect.

In a 1966 article for The New York Review, Oppenheimer wrote, "Though I knew Einstein for two or three decades, it was only in the last decade of his life that we were close colleagues and something of friends." They worked together at the institute from 1947 until Einstein's passing in 1955. While the specific conversation shown in the film may not have occurred verbatim, it was inspired by a real conversation between the two.

In an article for The New York Times, Kai Bird, co-author of American Prometheus which served as the basis for Oppenheimer, mentioned a conversation that took place in 1954. Just before Oppenheimer's security clearance was revoked, Einstein argued that he had no obligation to subject himself to the "witch hunt" and should turn his back on America. However, Oppenheimer felt a deep loyalty to his country and could not abandon it. This exchange was witnessed by Oppenheimer's secretary, Verna Hobson, who noted that Einstein referred to Oppenheimer as a "narr" or fool as he walked back into his office.

While the film may take some creative liberties, it draws inspiration from the real relationship between Oppenheimer and Einstein. Their differing views and mutual respect make for a compelling dynamic, adding depth to the story of Oppenheimer's involvement in the development of the atomic bomb.

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