Heritage talk recalls Oppenheimer hearings

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By Roger Snodgrass

Introduced by archivist Roger Meade as one of the “giants of our past,” a former division leader of Los Alamos National Laboratory gave an insider story of the community’s reaction to the revocation of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s security clearance more than half a century ago.

Oppenheimer was the lab’s first director during World War II and the Manhattan Project’s race to build the atomic bomb.

Fred Ribe began working at the laboratory in 1951, where he worked for 26 years before going on to teach at the University of Texas and the University of Washington.

The subject he chose for a talk in the lab’s Heritage Series July 21, was about events surrounding the Oppenheimer hearings of the Personnel Security Board of the Atomic Energy Commission. Ribe played a role in the controversy during the first years of his own career.

During “a political climate that condoned witch hunts,” as Meade called it, Oppenheimer’s personal loyalties and political sympathies were called into question during a grueling month in Washington in 1953.

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