IT WAS THE summer of 1942 and a secret group of senior theoretical physicists at the University of California, Berkeley — dubbed the “luminaries” — took the historic first steps toward the design and manufacture of the world’s first nuclear weapon, the atomic bomb.
Amid World War II, which began in 1939, the luminaries joined U.S. And Allied forces against Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany, Japan and Italy. Enter American physicist Julius Robert Oppenheimer, also known as “the father of the atomic bomb,” the director of the secret U.S. Manhattan Project at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the leader of the “luminaries.”
Oppenheimer also taught physics at UC Berkeley from 1929 to 1943. The luminaries assembled at the campus and the group eventually filled the two corner offices, 433 and 435, on the top floor of LeConte Hall, now Physics South.
Nearly 80 years later, the world-renowned director Christopher Nolan shot a number of scenes for the new biopic “Oppenheimer” on UC Berkeley’s campus. Based on Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin’s book “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer,” the Universal Pictures film is set to release on July 21, 2023.