This is a follow-up question to this question. I thought that it was better to post this as a second, related question though to avoid the original question from being too broad.

Wikipedia describes Dr. Robert Stadler from Atlas Shrugged as follows:

A former professor at Patrick Henry University, and along with colleague Hugh Akston, mentor to Francisco d'Anconia, John Galt and Ragnar Danneskjöld. He has since become a sell-out, one who had great promise but squandered it for social approval, to the detriment of the free. He works at the State Science Institute where all his inventions are perverted for use by the military, including the instrument of his demise: Project X (Xylophone). The character was, in part, modeled on J. Robert Oppenheimer, whom Rand had interviewed for an earlier project, and his part in the creation of nuclear weapons. To his former student Galt, Stadler represents the epitome of human evil, as the "man who knew better" but chose not to act for the good.

Is this accurate? Did such an interview take place? If so, what was the subject of the interview, and what did they talk about?

Did Ayn Rand use the material from the interview? If so, how, and on which project?

Did Rand believe Oppenheimer to be evil at the time that she interviewed him, or did she only come to that opinion later? If she believed him to be evil at the time, why did she interview him? Was Oppenheimer aware of her opinion of him? If so, why did he consent to the interview?

1 Answer 1


Yes, such an interview did, in fact, take place. From the Journals of Ayn Rand (edited by David Harriman), film producer Hal Wallis (Casablanca) contracted Ayn Rand to work for him and write a screenplay about the Atomic Bomb. She interviewed Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer several times for that project, but the movie was never made.

Hal Wallis sold the rights to MGM after she finished about a third of the script. MGM, who was already making a film about the Atomic Bomb, apparently wasn't actually interested in producing the script, just in killing off a competing project.

Naturally, the interview focused on the making of the atomic bomb. Some of the questions discussed in the interview (also discussed here) include:

When did he start in Chicago? (Summer, 1942).
When did he start in New Mexico?
How was he picked to be the head of Los Almos - was he chosen or did he volunteer? When and how did he hear about the project?
Incidents to show progress of the work? Were there crucial turning points, i.e. milestones of the progress?
What points or events stand out in your mind?

It appears that the material wasn't directly used in a different book, but it was the inspiration for Dr. Robert Stadler in Atlas Shrugged.

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