Movie Reviews

How Many Of J. Robert Oppenheimer's Relatives Are Still Alive

This article mentions instances of suicide.


Summary

  • Despite not being depicted in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, several of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s relatives are still alive and have voiced their opinions on the movie.
  • Kitty Oppenheimer, J. Robert Oppenheimer’s wife, outlived him by five years and remarried another physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project named Robert Serber.
  • Oppenheimer’s son Peter, who still lives on his father’s ranch in New Mexico, has extreme anxiety and led a secluded life. He has three living children, one of whom raised concerns about factual errors in Nolan’s movie.


Several of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s relatives are still alive despite not being depicted in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer. The celebrated yet controversial theoretical physicist became regarded as the Father of the Atomic Bomb for his leadership efforts in the Manhattan Project which ultimately led to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the use of two nuclear bombs. Oppenheimer’s life was devoted to his pursuit of knowledge and scientific advancement despite his attempts to simultaneously be a traditional family man as well, raising questions about what happened to Oppenheimer’s children.


When Oppenheimer died in 1967 from throat cancer, his legacy was largely considered from an extremely public and global perspective but he did leave behind several key family members who saw the controversial figure in a more personal light. Cillian Murphy’s portrayal of Oppenheimer in Nolan’s biopic depicts the famed figure as an earnest man whose career ambitions and nationalistic obligations drove him away and distracted him from his family life. Several of Oppenheimer’s descendants are still living today and some have even voiced their opinions on certain aspects of Nolan’s latest movie.

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Kitty Oppenheimer Died In 1972

She Outlived Her Husband By A Few Years

The brief yet impactful appearances of Oppenheimer’s wife in Nolan’s film raise the question of what happened to Kitty Oppenheimer after the movie. Kitty ultimately outlived her influential husband by five years and died in 1972, although both were 62 years old when they individually passed away. Kitty (Emily Blunt) decided to remarry after Oppenheimer’s death, partnering with another physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project named Robert Serber. Serber’s wife had died by suicide before he and Kitty formed their relationship.


Kitty was somewhat of a serial bride, having already married three times before Oppenheimer and eventually Serber. Her first marriage was to musician Frank Ramseyer before her association with the Communist Party led to her divorce from Ramseyer and her marriage to John Dullet Jr. soon after. Within a matter of a few years, Kitty was engaged in her third marriage with Oxford Doctor Richard Stewart Harrison until having an affair with Oppenheimer that brought about their marriage. Kitty died unexpectedly in a hospital from an embolism on October 27, 1972.

Oppenheimer’s Younger Brother Frank Died In 1985

Frank was briefly depicted in the film

Cillian Murphy as J. Robert Oppenheimer in Oppenheimer


J. Robert Oppenheimer’s brother Frank was a physicist in his own right. He was a professor at the University of Colorado and was the founder of the Exploratorium in San Francisco. Frank Oppenheimer was briefly depicted in Christopher Nolan’s film by actor Dylan Arnold (Halloween, You). He also conducted research on nuclear physics during the time of the Manhattan Project and made contributions to uranium enrichment. Similar to his brother, Frank Oppenheimer was ostracized due to alleged communist ties and was blacklisted for some time, preventing him from teaching until 1957. He was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1977 and lung cancer in 1983, dying in 1985.

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Oppenheimer’s Son Peter Is Still Alive

Robert And Kitty’s Eldest Child Lives On A Ranch

Teller speaks with Oppenheimer in Los Alamos in Oppenheimer


Oppenheimer’s son Peter Oppenheimer is still alive today at the age of 81 and lives on his father’s ranch in New Mexico. Peter was the oldest child between Kitty and Robert and was born in Pasadena, California before Oppenheimer’s involvement in the Manhattan Project began, bringing Peter along to Los Alamos as a young child. Peter reportedly was known to be incredibly shy and had generalized anxiety which caused him to remain heavily isolated throughout his developmental years. Education and socialization were often difficult for Peter, especially since his relationship with the self-destructive and overbearing Kitty was not stellar.

Peter’s extreme anxiety was likely caused by his parents’ resentment toward the timing of his birth, which was an incredibly unfair mistreatment that affected the course of his entire life. Robert enrolled him in a prestigious Quaker school in Pennsylvania called the George School with the intention that it would break Peter out of his shell, but unfortunately, this proved to be unsuccessful.


Peter ended up leaving the George School before graduating, finishing his education at Princeton High School. Kitty placed a great deal of pressure on Peter, which likely contributed to his developmental issues as well. Peter took up an interest in carpentry and eventually sought that out as a profession, living in seclusion in New Mexico to this day.

Oppenheimer Has Three Living Grandchildren From Peter

The Family Legacy Lives On

Cillian Murphy as a young Oppenheimer in Oppenheimer


Oppenheimer has three living grandchildren from Peter named Dorothy, Charles, and Ella. None of Peter’s children ever had the opportunity to meet their notorious grandfather, however, Charles has recently raised concerns about some of Oppenheimer’s factual errors after the film’s release. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Christopher Nolan himself had explained to Charles that some of the scenes were meant to be dramatized for the sake of the movie. Charles still believes that one very crucial and memorable scene should have been left out to preserve his already controversial grandfather’s legacy as much as possible.

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Oppenheimer’s Daughter Toni Died In 1977

A Tragic Suicide

Cillian Murphy as Oppenheimer


Oppenheimer’s fourth child, a daughter named Toni, died by suicide at the age of 32. Katherine “Toni” Oppenheimer had shown great potential at a young age and excelled early on at school. In many ways, she was a fundamental component of her family while she received her early education in Princeton, New Jersey. Toni, Oppenheimer’s second child born in 1944, developed polio as a child which led to her admiration of the United States Virgin Islands after her parents brought her there in an effort to aid her recovery.

Toni Oppenheimer had worked her way up to being considered for a role as a translator from the United Nations but was ultimately denied a security clearance by the FBI. This parallels with J. Robert Oppenheimer having his security clearance revoked after his famous 1954 security clearance hearing, which essentially ended his work at the highest level of American scientific and technological innovation. After the disappointing outcome of the United Nations rejection, Toni relocated to the Virgin Islands where she ultimately died by suicide in 1977.


What Oppenheimer’s Relatives Have Said About Christopher Nolan’s Movie

The cyanide in the apple part never happened

As aforementioned, Oppenheimer’s grandson Charles has expressed some disapproval of the accuracy of one scene of Nolan’s film in particular. Charles claims that the instance in which a young Oppenheimer injected cyanide into his professor’s apple in an attempt to poison him out of spite never actually happened. Charles felt that it was important to set the record straight on the issue of whether Oppenheimer should be considered potentially murderous in nature, which directly contrasts the film’s major theme of Oppenheimer’s irrevocable guilt for the ‘blood on his hands’ from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Dorothy Oppenheimer Vanderford has also spoken to the press about her thoughts on the film. She has indicated that she wishes Nolan’s Oppenheimer would have mentioned that the U.S. Department of Energy reversed their decision to revoke her grandfather’s security clearance posthumously in 2022. She also didn’t agree with the sentiment that her grandfather was psychologically tortured with remorse over his development in the atomic bomb, claiming that he was very proud of his achievement (via 3 News). Overall, the famous physicist’s grandchildren were pleased by Christopher Nolan’s interpretation of the historic figure in his epic biopic Oppenheimer.

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Source: The Hollywood Reporter, 3 News

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