Report and letter signed by Oppenheimer up for auction ahead of Oscars

4 months ago
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Among the items to go under the hammer in Boston is a report on the birth of the atomic bomb, which was subsequently used against Japan, helping lead to the end of World War II.

It has received 13 nominations, including for best picture, best actor and best director.

Christopher Nolan’s US$1 billion-grossing epic immortalises the story of the wartime race to create nuclear weapons, with the film the leading contender at the Academy Awards on Sunday.

Propelled to prominence by the blockbuster film Oppenheimer, papers charting the world-changing creation of the atomic bomb by the eponymous physicist are up for auction in the United States

It chronicles the Manhattan Project which was managed in secret in Los Alamos, a town built around a classified lab that was created from scratch in New Mexico at the suggestion of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who had a lifelong passion for the surrounding mountains.

Dubbed the Smyth Report, the document was first released to the press on August 12, 1945, days after the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“The report serves as a comprehensive overview of the scientific and administrative journey leading to the creation of one of humanity’s most formidable weapons,” according to the RR Auction House in Boston.

“Among the notable signatories are Enrico Fermi, renowned for creating the world’s first nuclear reactor; J. Robert Oppenheimer, the visionary physicist who directed the Los Alamos Laboratory; Ernest Lawrence, Nobel laureate and pioneer of the cyclotron; James Chadwick, discoverer of the neutron; and Harold Urey, a Nobel Prize recipient and expert in isotope separation.”

The current bid is in excess of US$35,000, with the auction set to close on Wednesday.

Also under the hammer is a letter typed by Oppenheimer in which he decries his creation as “a weapon for aggressors”.

“The elements of surprise and of terror are as intrinsic to it as are the fissionable nuclei,” he wrote, signing the letter to a journalist writing about Russia’s nuclear arsenal as “Opie”.

Bobby Livingston, executive vice-president at RR Auction, called it “a letter of truly remarkable content in which Oppenheimer demonstrates extraordinary foresight for the future use of the atomic bomb”.

The leading bid is currently in excess of US$35,000.…Read more by Agence France-Presse

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