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  • Writer's picturePeggy O'Donnell

American Prometheus

Updated: Jul 7, 2023

Oppenheimer smoking pipe

"From 1950 to 1990, the U.S. Energy Department produced an average of four nuclear bombs every day, turning them out of hastily built factories with few environmental safeguards that left behind a vast legacy of toxic radioactive waste."(New York Times, June 1st, 2023)

The high priest of theoretical physics, and the man most responsible for the development of the atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, argued back in the 50s against such proliferation, and against development of the H-bomb. At the time he was the chair of the General Advisory Committee of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. He was highly influential, but had hidden and not so hidden enemies. One such enemy was J. Edgar Hoover.

In the 30s Oppenheimer had many friends in the Communist party, although he was never a member. In November of 1945 Hoover sent a three page summary of Oppenheimer's FBI file to both the White House and Secretary of State. Although Hoover could never prove Oppenheimer was a member of the Communist Party, the FBI was generating over the next 8 years, some 1000 pages per year on Oppenheimer. Hoover had a wire tap installed on Oppenheimer's home on May 8, 1946.

What Robert Oppenheimer was arguing against were ideas like the one generated by Bernard Baruch, that argued for using U.S. nuclear weapons to punish any country found to be building nuclear weapons. (page 345 of American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin)

This all culminated in the revocation of Oppenheimer's security clearance in 1954, after a grueling one sided hearing which was orchestrated by one of his enemies. He did continue to be a respected figure and lecturer in physics, and kept his post as Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton. He was a Renaissance man, and the leading intellectuals he invited to the Institute included people from all across the humanities.

So what about his chart? As the developer of the atomic bomb, and the head of the Manhattan Project, one would expect a strong Pluto in his chart.

Pluto is in Gemini in the 12th house, conjunct Vesta (devotion) in a perfect trine to Saturn in the 9th. He did devote himself fully to developing the bomb, with the hope that it could be used against Nazi Germany. There is a debate whether or not it was appropriate to use the bomb on Japan when they were close to surrender. (I asked my Dad, who was in the war, how he felt about it and he said fine, as he was on a boat on the way to Japan, and it meant he would not get shot at.) Oppenheimer had in his early education, attended a school (Ethical Culture Society School) focused on ethics and the use of the bomb was a source of great trouble to him. It is fitting that Pluto is in the 12th, as the project was highly secret. He also had powerful enemies. Saturn in trine shows the hard work. Mercury is also in the 12th house, reflecting again the secrecy of his work and his intuitive knowledge of physics.

Pluto in the 12th means different things in different charts. Some astrologers describe this position as that of the High Priest, due to power and charisma. When Oppenheimer gave talks, he was apparently quite mesmerizing. He has Gemini rise, which fits for a many of many interests. He was poly lingual and and had read the Hindu scriptures in the original Sanskrit.

The ruler of his Midheaven is Neptune rising in Cancer, trine the Pisces Midheaven. With large eyes and an ethereal physique, he looked otherworldly. His moon was in Cancer in the 2nd house and apparently women loved him. He also had a Venus Jupiter conjunction in Aries in the 11th house. His women (love life and work life) were extremely loyal.

Uranus is conjunct the Descendant and slightly out of bounds. (23 degrees 38 minutes south of the ecliptic). He did have an odd assortment of partners, one of whom committed suicide.

At the time the first test of the atomic bomb on July 16, 1945 his progressed MC was conjunct Jupiter. At the time the government was spying on him and harassing him and revoking his security clearance, his progressed Sun was conjunct Pluto in the 12th house, and trine Saturn. They seized his papers from his house on Christmas eve of 1953.

The man who was in large part responsible for this harassment did get his due. He was up for Secretary of Commerce in the late 50s, and McGeorge Bundy, who was friends with Oppenheimer and worked for JFK when he was a Senator, talked Kennedy into voting against Strauss and thus denying him the post.

natal chart of Oppenheimer

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