Tuesday, February 20, 2018

J. Robert Oppenheimer and the Case of the Poison Apple

While reading the book The Strangest Man (The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom) I came across this surprising paragraph;
In the early autumn of 1925, he [Patrick Blackett] tutored Oppenheimer at the laboratory bench, teaching him the craft of experimental physics, for which Oppenheimer had little aptitude, as he well knew. With the peculiar logic of neurosis, Oppenheimer decided to get his own back by anonymously leaving on Blackett's desk an apple poisoned with chemicals from the laboratory. Blackett survived but the authorities were outraged and Oppenheimer avoided expulsion from the university only after his parents  persuaded the university not to press charges but to put him on probation, on the understanding that he would have regular sessions with a psychiatrist. 
Oppenheimer is famous in history for saying "I have become death, destroyer of worlds" after the explosion of the atomic bomb. Who knew that in graduate school at Cambridge he also almost became the evil queen poisoner of apples?

Can you imagine how the history of the 20th century could have been much different if in 1925 J. Robert Oppenheimer was put in jail for attempted murder?

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