“Oppenheimer, by all accounts, was a child with a mind very much like Chris Langan’s. His parents considered him a genius. One of his teachers recalled that “he received every new idea as perfectly beautiful.” He was doing lab experiments by the third grade and studying physics and chemistry by the fifth grade. When he was nine, he once told one of his cousins, “Ask me a question in Latin and I will answer you in Greek.” Oppenheimer went to Harvard and then on to Cambridge University to pursue a doctorate in physics. There, Oppenheimer, who struggled with depression his entire life, grew despondent. His gift was for theoretical physics,and his tutor, a man named Patrick Blackett (who would win a Nobel Prize in 1948), was forcing him to attend to the minutiae of experimental physics, which he hated. He grew more and more emotionally unstable, and then, in an act so strange that to this day no one has properly made sense of it, Oppenheimer took some chemicals from the laboratory and tried to poison his tutor.”-Malcom Gladwell, Outliers
I don’t find this strange. Geniuses don’t want to spend the best years of their lives doing what they hate. So, what would they do if someone stands in their way? Get him out of their way—At any cost.
Post Script: Robert Stadler in Atlas Shrugged was roughly based on Robert Oppenheimer.
“Oppenheimer set the character of Stadler in my mind, which is the reason for the first name of Robert. It’s the type that Oppenheimer projected-that enormous intelligence, somewhat bitter, but very much the gentleman and scholar, and slightly other-worldly. Even his office was what I described for Stadler—that almost ostentatious simplicity. ”