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Oppenheimer's awakening in the late 1930s brought him within the gates. He had discovered society. His Los Alamos job was by no means merely one of physical theory. He now reviews it for the AEC: "To recruit staff, I traveled all over the country . . . The notion of disappearing into the New Mexico desert for an indeterminate period and under quasi-military auspices disturbed a good many scientists and the families of many more." But a "sense of excitement, of devotion and of patriotism in the end prevailed. Most of those with whom I talked came to Los Alamos ..." Oppenheimer had not only discovered society; he had discovered leadership, and his own unsuspected powers to exercise it.

When on July 16, 1945, the first mushroom cloud rose above Alamogordo's sands, Oppenheimer awakened to another reality. Said he: "In some crude sense which no vulgarity, no humor, no overstatement can quite extinguish, the physicists have known sin, and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose."

In this sense of sin, some of the physicists wallowed inertly. Not Oppenheimer. The man who had been almost unaware of society and politics in 1936 was by 1945 ready to expiate what he thought was sin by trying to change in a most fundamental manner the politics of the world. Writing in Foundations for World Order in 1947, Oppenheimer looked back to the hopes that he and his followers shared in 1945. He wrote: "It seemed to us in this work that here was a magnificent opportunity to exploit such scientific foundations for world order as do appear to exist ... In other words, we could get people working together for an organization which was not responsive, in the first instance, to the national will of the sovereign states. . . We not only wanted to start down the path of genuine internationalization, of which the ultimate goal, I suppose, is world government; we wanted also to minimize things which we were sure would in and of themselves not work; the purely negative, repressive measures toward atomic energy which had been .so much talked about—measures like inspections and prohibition and so on."

The newest Oppenheimer was no man to stop with a mere statement of political aspirations. He moved into the politics of the atom. He had learned Greek in three months, was it impossible for him to learn as quickly how defense policy should be shaped, how international relations should be conducted, how war could be avoided? Whether he really understood his new interest is an open question. But he certainly learned to read the political book without a dictionary.

In the fight for civilian v. military control of the atom, Oppenheimer became a powerful factor. He took his place as chairman of the General Advisory Committee to the AEC. He was the dominant author of the 1946 Acheson-Lilienthal plan for international atomic control. David Lilienthal said of him:

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