The Exploratorium opened to the public in the fall of 1969. Richard M. Nixon was president, and the Vietnam War and racial tensions continued to divide the nation. Neil Armstrong had just taken humankind's first walk on the moon, Andy Warhol was creating pop-art images of soup cans, and the hot tub had just been introduced in California. More than 70 million children from the post-war baby boom were becoming teenagers and young adults, and San Francisco had become a nexus for social experimentation. It was the perfect place-and the perfect time-to try out a new way of learning.
Frank Oppenheimer, then 57 years old, had already had three life-shaping careers before coming to San Francisco. A brilliant physicist in his own right, he’d been a university professor and worked beside his brother, J. Robert Oppenheimer (known to some as the "father" of the atomic bomb), on the Manhattan Project of the 1940s. Barred from pursuing scientific research during the McCarthy era of the 1950s, Frank retreated to small-town Colorado and became a cattle rancher. Before long, his passion for knowledge and learning led him back to teaching, and he began to share his view of the world with students at the local high school.
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