Skip to main content

Frank Oppenheimer papers

Identifier: uarc 1151

Scope and Content

The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence by Dr. Frank Oppenheimer, and his colleagues, during his tenure at the University of Minnesota. Much of the correspondence pertains to the investigation of Dr. Oppenheimer’s Communist ties. Other materials include letters of recommendation to Dr. Buchta, chairman of the Department of Physics at the University of Minnesota, from former employers and colleagues, upon Dr. Oppenheimer's appointment at the University (1946).

This collection does not include materials regarding Dr. Oppenheimer's work on nuclear physics or involvement with the Manhattan Project.


  • 1946-1950, 1958-1959


Language of Materials

Finding aid written in English

Use of Materials

Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only.


Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). Requests to publish should be arranged with the University of Minnesota Archives.

Biographical Sketch of Frank Oppenheimer (1912-1985)

Frank Oppenheimer, B.S. (1932) Johns Hopkins University, Ph.D. (1938) California Institute of Technology. Associate professor of physics at the University of Minnesota; physicist on the Manhattan project. Investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee for his communist party ties.

Frank Oppenheimer was born on August 12, 1912 in New York City. He earned his B.S. in 1932 from Johns Hopkins University and his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1938. He was the younger brother of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, chief of the Los Alamos Atomic Bomb laboratory during World War II. After completing his Ph.D., Dr. Frank Oppenheimer worked on nuclear physics projects at Berkeley, Oak Ridge, Tennessee and at the Los Alamos lab on the Manhattan Project.

He began his teaching career at the University of Minnesota on December 16, 1946 as associate professor of physics. In 1947, a Washington Times Heraldarticle claimed that Dr. Oppenheimer was a member of the Communist Party from 1937-1939 (July 12, 1947). When the story first broke, Dr. Oppenheimer denied being a member of the Communist Party, only to retract that statement in 1949. In a report to the House Un-American activities committee, Dr. Oppenheimer stated that he, and his wife, joined the party in 1937 to search for answers to unemployment in America. He left the party in 1940 because the party did not find an adequate solution to unemployment. He claimed that he never participated in any anti-American activities during his three and a half years in the Communist Party. Dr. Oppenheimer resigned his position at the University of Minnesota in 1949.

After leaving Minnesota, he spent 10 years as a cattle rancher in Colorado. In 1957, Dr. Oppenheimer began teaching science at the high school level. In 1969, Dr. Oppenheimer founded the San Francisco science museum Exploratorium, a museum devoted to the areas of science, art, and human perception and the museum as an educational experience. He served as the museum's first director until his death in 1985.


1 box (0.25 cubic feet)


Collection contains papers relating to the tenure of Dr. Frank Oppenheimer, associate professor of physics at the University of Minnesota.

Source of acquisition

Collection deposited in University Archives by the Physics Department on February 10, 2005.

Related Materials in University Archives

Frank Oppenheimer biography/clipping file. This file includes original articles regarding Dr. Oppenheimer's involvement with the Communist Party, his subsequent resignation from the University of Minnesota and his life after the University, and articles regarding the decision of the government to exclude his brother, Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, from further atomic energy programs (1954).

Phyllis St. Cyr Freier papers

Office of the President records

University Relations records

Frank Oppenheimer Papers, 1946-1950, 1958-1959
Karen Spilman
March 2005
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Collecting Area Details

Contact The University Archives Collecting Area