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    The Father of the Atomic Bomb writes, "We hope . . . that there is some joy in
    your hearts to see things turning, slowly and haltingly,
    against the greatest evils of our time"

    J. Robert Oppenheimer Autograph Letter Signed. Three pages, 6" x 8.5", [Los Alamos] New Mexico, January 15 [1945]. Penned on Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway letterhead with "The Chief" logo and an image of an Indian at upper left (The Chief was a luxury passenger train that ran between Chicago and Los Angeles).

    Here, famed theoretical physicist Robert Oppenheimer sends a thoughtful letter to his favorite aunt, Hedwig Oppenheimer Stern, who had emigrated from Germany to the U.S. in the fall of 1937. When she died in 1966 - one year before Oppenheimer died - her son told the physicist, "Your closeness has made it [her life] richer still. As long as she could think and feel, she was all for you" (Robert Oppenheimer: Letters and Recollections [Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995], 202). Oppenheimer demonstrates that closeness in this letter as he announces the birth of his daughter. In full:

    "Dear Hedwig: It was good to have your little New Year note, for all its melancoly [sic]. We have been away a long time now and it will probably not be till the war is over, that we can come back. But all is well with us, & we are looking forward to the time when we are home again, & can pick up the many threads broken by our leaving. Circumstances make it more than ordinarily thankless to write letters; but to us, for whom this rupture is so universal, it also seems less decisive.

    We had, about a month ago, a daughter, whom we called Katherine Tyhe [Toni?]. She was very tiny, but is a really cute baby. She and Kitty have been fine, & it was just right for Peter to have a sister at this time. We were delighted that it finally went well with your citizenship. There is little else we know, hearing no more from others than we do from you. I did see Frank, in Washington, a few months ago, & was delighted to see how well he was, in every way. We hope things are good with you and yours, and that there is some joy in your hearts to see things turning, slowly and haltingly, against the greatest evils of our time. My love to all of you, & all our wishes for this year. Robert."

    Oppenheimer and his wife, Kitty, had their first child, Peter, in May 1941, while Katherine, called Toni, was born in Los Alamos on December 7, 1944. The erratic Oppenheimer had begun his work with the top-secret Manhattan Project in the spring of 1942. The "rupture" that he writes of in this letter relates to his work there, where he propagated a fast neutron chain reaction in an atomic bomb - he was sometimes referred to as the Coordinator of Rapid Rupture. Following the detonation of atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, eight months after Oppenheimer penned this letter, the Manhattan Project, along with Oppenheimer, became well known. Letter is bright and clean, with smoothed folds.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2011
    8th-9th Friday-Saturday
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