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About the Authors

J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904 - 1967). After graduating from high school, he went on to Harvard, acquiring his degree in 1925. He then went on to the University of Göttingen to study with Max Born, who was leading the development of quantum mechanics. In collaboration with Born, he later published some papers on collision theory. Because of this, he received a Ph.D. at Göttingen in 1927.

After Göttingen he went to Zurich and then Leyden as a fellow of the Institute of International Education. He then went on to become the assistant professor of theoretical physics at the California Institute of Technology and the University of California in 1929. He subsequently achieved at both institutions associate professor in 1931 and full professor in 1936.

During this time, his work covered numerous areas of physics. Oppenheimer made contributions to cosmic ray theory, quantum mechanics, atomic theory, nuclear physics, fundamental particles, and astrophysics. With the discovery of the neutron in 1932, his work shifted towards this area. In collaboration with Volkov, he showed that given certain conditions a star may gravitationally contract, converting the protons into neutrons, resulting in a neutron star.

During World War II, he was chosen to be the head of the work at Los Almos where the atomic bomb was to be created. He also served as chairman of the General Advisory Committee of the Atomic Energy Commission from 1946-1952. In 1947 he left to become director of the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton, until he retired in 1965. In 1948 he was elected President of the American Physical Society, the highest honor physicists can give a colleague. During this time, his research involved the theory of fundamental particles and mesons.

In 1953, Oppenheimer experienced a three week hearing before a Personnel Security Board, after the government withdrew his security clearance. Although there was little basis for the charges-originated from half-truths and rumors about political orientations of past colleagues - the Atomic Energy Commission upheld the withdrawl.

Richard Feynman (1918 - 1988). Studied at MIT and received his doctorate from Princeton in 1942. His doctoral work developed a new approach to quantum mechanics using the principle of least action. He replaced the wave model of electromagnetics of Maxwell with a model based on particle interactions mapped into space - time.

Feynman worked on the atomic bomb project at Princeton University (1941-42) and then at Los Alamos (1943-45). After World War II he was appointed to the chair of theoretical physics at Cornell University, then, in 1950, to the chair of theoretical physics at Caltech. He remained at Caltech for the rest of his career.

Feynman's main contribution was to quantum mechanics, following on from the work of his doctoral thesis. He introduced diagrams (now called Feynman diagrams) that are graphic analogues of the mathematical expressions needed to describe the behaviour of systems of interacting particles. For this work he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1965, jointly with Schwinger and Tomonoga.

Other work on particle spin and the theory of 'partons' which led to the current theory of quarks were fundamental in pushing forward an understanding of particle physics.

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