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Dictionary of World Biography
Oppenheimer, Sir Ernest (1880–1957). South
African businessman, born in Germany. He lived in
South Africa from 1902, formed the Anglo American
Corporation of South Africa, Ltd, in 1917 (with the
backing of J. P. *Morgan) and began to exploit the
Witwatersrand goldfield. He formed Consolidated
Diamond Mines of South West Africa, Ltd, in 1919.
Through the success of this company he was able to
gain control of De Beers, the predominant diamond
company. He also mined Rhodesian copper through
his Rhodesian Anglo American Corporation. He was
Mayor of Kimberley 1912–15, received a knighthood
in 1921 and became a Unionist MP 1924–38. His
son, Harry Frederick Oppenheimer (1908–2000),
was a Unionist MP 1947–58, chairman of over 60
companies, a notable art collector and a racial liberal.
Oppenheimer, J(ulius) Robert (1904–1967).
American theoretical physicist, born in New York.
His parents were rich, radical and cultivated, and
he studied at Harvard, Cambridge (unhappily) and
Göttingen. Professor of physics at Caltech 1936–
42, 1945–47, he worked on astrophysics, nuclear
disintegration, cosmic rays and relativity. Despite
his political naiveté, because of his extraordinary
command of detail and ability to determine priorities,
he became the central figure in ‘the Manhattan Project’
and at the Los Alamos (New Mexico) Laboratory
1942–45 led the team that designed and built the first
atomic bombs. As Chairman of the Advisory Council
of the US Atomic Energy Commission 1946–53, he
opposed developing the hydrogen bomb. From 1952
he was persistently attacked by his former colleague
Edward *Teller and suspended as a ‘security risk’ on
the grounds of past association with Communists.
He became director of the Institute for Advanced
Studies at Princeton 1947–67. He delivered the
BBC’s Reith Lectures in 1953, was given the Legion
of Honour by France in 1957, elected FRS in 1962
and received the Fermi Award in 1963. A chain
smoker, he died of throat cancer.
Monk, R., Inside the Centre: The Life of J. Robert
Oppenheimer. 2012.
Orczy, Emmuska, Baroness (in full Emma Magdolna
Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála Orczy de Orczi) (1865–
1947). English writer, born in Hungary. In London
from 1880, she won immediate success when she
turned her rejected novel The Scarlet Pimpernel
(1905) into a play about Sir Percy Blakeney, the
heroic rescuer of French aristocrats doomed to the
guillotine. It became a successful film (1935) with
Leslie *Howard. She wrote other romances, some
detective stories collected as The Old Man in the
Corner, and an autobiography, Links in the Chain
of Life (1947).
Oresme, Nicole (1320–1382). Norman French
philosopher. He seems to have been particularly
interested in the notion of the universe operating
as if by clockwork, and yet he made no break with
the Aristotelian idea of intelligences being directly
responsible for motion in nature. He pondered over
the problem of the possibility of the plurality of
worlds. He believed that science was against such a
view, but stressed that God undoubtedly possessed the
free will to have created such a state of affairs. Oresme
denied the validity of astrological forces on both
physical and theological grounds. Some of his most
prescient thinking in physics relates to his studies of
falling bodies. His emphasis that acceleration depends
upon time of fall, rather than distance fallen, contains
an idea developed later by *Galileo.
Clagett, M., The science of mechanics in the Middle
Ages. 1959.
Orff, Carl (1895–1982). German composer, born
in Munich. Reacting against the complexity of much
20th-century music he developed a tuneful style
with a direct appeal and strongly marked rhythms.
The scenic cantata Carmina Burana (1937), a series
of medieval Latin and German verses set for soloists
and chorus with accompaniments of dancing and
mime, was designed for stage performance. There are
40 recordings in the current CD catalogue and it is
often performed. Its sequel Catulli Carmina (1943)
has had less exposure. Among his other works are the
operas Der Mond (1939), Die Kluge (1942), Antigone
(1949) and incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s
Dream (1939).
Orford, Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of see Walpole,
Sir Robert
Origen (Origenes Adamantius) (c.185–c.253).
Christian theologian and biblical scholar, born at
Alexandria. He accepted the orthodox Christian
doctrines as revealed in the Bible but held it to be
the right and the duty of individual Christians to
seek for themselves answers to unanswered questions
(e.g. the nature of the soul) in philosophical writings,
even those of pagans on the ground that there were
‘Christians before Christ’. As his reputation grew, his
Alexandrian friends and followers encouraged him to
publish his views and he wrote De Princepiis (On First
Principles), one of the most influential books of early
Christian philosophy. He was ordained in Palestine
(230) but Demetrius, his bishop, regarded such
ordination as irregular and exiled him. He settled
at Caesarea, and there produced his Hexapla, a
revised version of the Septuagint (the Greek text
of the Old Testament) and other versions and the
Hebrew original set out in parallel columns. During
the persecutions of the emperor Decius, Origen was
imprisoned and tortured, which led to his death.
The official ecclesiastical view continued to be hostile
to Origen. *Justinian condemned the study of his
voluminous works with the result that the greater
part is lost.
Danielou, J., Origen. 1955.