American Experience: The Trials Of J. Robert Oppenheimer
Airs Monday, May 23, 2011 at 10 p.m. on KPBS
Friday, May 20, 2011
Photo Gallery: Atomic Secrets
Science and the military converged under a cloak of secrecy at Los Alamos National Laboratory. As part of the Manhattan Project, Los Alamos — both its very existence and the work that went on there — was kept from Americans during World War II. View photos
J. Robert Oppenheimer's life and legacy are inextricably linked to America's most famous top-secret initiative — the Manhattan Project. But after World War II, this brilliant and intense scientist, tasked with the development of the atomic bomb and widely considered one of the most important minds of the 20th century, fell from the innermost circles of American science.
At the height of the Red Scare, the veil of suspicion fell over Oppenheimer. He was accused of having communist sympathies and was pressed to explain his relationships with known communists. This biography presents a complex and revealing portrait of one of America's most influential scientists.
Interweaving interviews with family members, scholars and colleagues with dramatic re-creations featuring Academy Award-nominated actor David Strathairn ("Good Night, and Good Luck" and "The Bourne Ultimatum"), this film follows Oppenheimer's fascinating arc from the heady world of international physics to the top-secret Manhattan Project and finally to the dark days of the Red Scare and McCarthyism. Campbell Scott narrates.