Oppenheimer's Grandson Calls One Major Movie Scene Historically Inaccurate

Oppenheimer's Grandson Calls One Major Movie Scene Historically Inaccurate
Image credit: Universal Pictures

Nolan wasn't all that accurate with historical details.

One of the most anticipated movies of the year, Christopher Nolan 's Oppenheimer hit the screens on July 21. Telling the story of the 'father of the atomic bomb,' the biopic is already being described as Nolan's most powerful work yet, with many film critics and history experts praising the director's careful attention to historical details.

However, the real-life grandson of the famous physicist, Charles Oppenheimer, has noted that one of the scenes is actually totally wrong. The scene in question was adapted from the book American Prometheus, which served as the basis for the entire movie.

J. Robert Oppenheimer went through a difficult period while preparing for his doctorate in physics at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. His emotional problems and growing sense of isolation drove the brilliant scientist into depression. His mentor, Patrick Maynard Stuart Blackett, had to literally force Oppenheimer to work in the laboratory.

According to American Prometheus and Nolan's movie, constant failure in the lab and the attempts to gain the teacher's approval caused the physicist to become incredibly jealous. Francis Fergusson, a longtime friend of the scientist, claimed that Oppenheimer allegedly confessed to trying to poison Blackett with an apple laced with toxic chemicals.

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However, apart from Fergusson's account, there is no evidence to prove this incident, and Oppenheimer's grandson denies that it ever happened.

'The part I like the least is this poison apple reference, which was a problem in American Prometheus. If you read American Prometheus carefully enough, the authors say, "We don't really know if it happened,"' Charles Oppenheimer explained. 'There's no record of him trying to kill somebody. That's a really serious accusation, and it's historical revision.'

Besides this detail (which is, of course, a serious shortcoming in terms of the movie's historical inaccuracy), Oppenheimer is a perfect portrayal of the most important person in history, as Nolan himself describes the physicist.

In the movie, Oppenheimer's story unfolds in several time periods. One shows the scientist during his studies in Europe, then as a professor at Berkeley, and later as the leader of the Manhattan Project. After the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Oppenheimer attempts to contain the nuclear race, and in the end, he is shown as a subject of the FBI's investigation for treason.

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In addition to exploring the life of its central character, Nolan's movie raises philosophical and ethical questions about the relationship between the creator and his work, people's inability to comprehend the power and outcome of technological progress, and human nature torn between creation and destruction.

Source: Time