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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index O > J. Robert Oppenheimer Quotes > Atomic Bomb

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J. Robert Oppenheimer
(22 Apr 1904 - 18 Feb 1967)

American theoretical physicist and science administrator.

J. Robert Oppenheimer Quotes on Atomic Bomb (7 quotes)

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But when you come right down to it, the reason that we did this job is because it was an organic necessity. If you are a scientist you cannot stop such a thing. If you are a scientist you believe that it is good to find out how the world works; that it is good to find out what the realities are; that it is good to turn over to mankind at large the greatest possible power to control the world and to deal with it according to its lights and values.
Regarding the atomic bomb project.
— J. Robert Oppenheimer
From speech at Los Alamos (17 Oct 1945). Quoted in David C. Cassidy, J. Robert Oppenheimer and the American Century (2009), 214.
Science quotes on:  |  Atomic Bomb (107)  |  Control (114)  |  Enquiry (76)  |  Light (347)  |  Mankind (241)  |  Necessity (143)  |  Reality (190)  |  Research (590)  |  Scientist (522)  |  Value (242)

Despite the vision and the far-seeing wisdom of our wartime heads of state, the physicists felt a peculiarly intimate responsibility for suggesting, for supporting, and in the end, in large measure, for achieving the realization of atomic weapons. Nor can we forget that these weapons, as they were in fact used, dramatized so mercilessly the inhumanity and evil of modern war. In some sort of crude sense which no vulgarity, no humor, no overstatement can quite extinguish, the physicists have known sin; and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose.
— J. Robert Oppenheimer
In Arthur Dehon Little Memorial Lecture (25 Nov 1947) to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 'Physics in the Contemporary World'. Collected in J. Robert Oppenheimer, The Open Mind (1955), 88.
Science quotes on:  |  Atomic Bomb (107)  |  Crude (17)  |  Evil (79)  |  Humour (103)  |  Inhumanity (3)  |  Knowledge (1306)  |  Lose (94)  |  Merciless (3)  |  Modern (162)  |  Physicist (161)  |  Realization (37)  |  Responsibility (55)  |  Sense (321)  |  Suggestion (30)  |  Support (78)  |  Vision (94)  |  Vulgarity (2)  |  War (161)  |  Weapon (66)  |  Wisdom (182)

I am become death, The Shatterer of Worlds.
— J. Robert Oppenheimer
At the moment the first test atomic device exploded, Oppenheimer recalled a few lines from the 2,000-year-old Bhagavad Gita of India. This line is the most often quoted. In Abraham Pais and Robert P. Crease, J. Robert Oppenheimer: a Life (2006), 44. Also seen translated as “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
Science quotes on:  |  Atomic Bomb (107)  |  Death (302)  |  World (898)

If atomic bombs are to be added as new weapons to the arsenals of a warring world, or to the arsenals of nations preparing for war, then the time will come when mankind will curse the names of Los Alamos and Hiroshima. The people must unite, or they will perish.
— J. Robert Oppenheimer
Speech at Fuller Lodge when the U.S. Army was honouring the work at Los Alamos. (16 Oct 1945). Quoted in Kai Bird, Martin J. Sherwin, American Prometheus: the Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (2005), 323.
Science quotes on:  |  Arsenal (6)  |  Atomic Bomb (107)  |  Curse (15)  |  Hiroshima (15)  |  Los Alamos (3)  |  Mankind (241)  |  Name (170)  |  Nation (134)  |  War (161)  |  World (898)

It did not take atomic weapons to make man want peace. But the atomic bomb was the turn of the screw. The atomic bomb made the prospect of future war unendurable. It has led us up those last few steps to the mountain pass; and beyond there is a different country.
— J. Robert Oppenheimer
Commencement address (1946). As quoted in book review (of Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb), by William J. Broad, ‘The Men Who Made the Sun Rise', New York Times Book Review (8 Feb 1987), 39. Cited as from 'The Atomic Bomb and College Education' (1946), in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations (18th ed., 2014). as quoted, without citation, in . Please contact Webmaster if you know a primary source.
Science quotes on:  |  Atomic Bomb (107)  |  Country (147)  |  Different (186)  |  Future (287)  |  Mountain (145)  |  Pass (93)  |  Peace (84)  |  Prospect (22)  |  Screw (7)  |  Step (110)  |  Unendurable (2)  |  Want (176)  |  War (161)  |  Weapon (66)

When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and you argue about what to do about it only after you have had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.
— J. Robert Oppenheimer
From USAEC Transcript of Hearing Before Personnel Security Board (1954). Reproduced in Richard Polenberg (ed.), In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer: The Security Clearance Hearing (2002), 46-47.

[W]e have made a thing, a most terrible weapon, that has altered abruptly and profoundly the nature of the world. We have made a thing that, by all standards of the world we grew up in, is an evil thing. And by doing so, by our participation in making it possible to make these things, we have raised again the question of whether science is good for man, of whether it is good to learn about the world, to try to understand it, to try to control it, to help give to the world of men increased insight, increased power. Because we are scientists, we must say an unalterable yes to these questions; it is our faith and our commitment, seldom made explicit, even more seldom challenged, that knowledge is a good in itself, knowledge and such power as must come with it.
— J. Robert Oppenheimer
Speech to the American Philosophical Society (Jan 1946). 'Atomic Weapons', printed in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 90(1), 7-10. In Deb Bennett-Woods, Nanotechnology: Ethics and Society (2008), 23. Identified as a speech to the society in Kai Bird, Martin J. Sherwin, American Prometheus: the Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (2005), 323.
Science quotes on:  |  Atomic Bomb (107)  |  Challenge (61)  |  Commitment (20)  |  Control (114)  |  Evil (79)  |  Explicit (3)  |  Faith (157)  |  Good (345)  |  Insight (73)  |  Knowledge (1306)  |  Power (366)  |  Question (404)  |  Seldom (30)  |  Understand (340)  |  Weapon (66)  |  World (898)

See also:
  • 22 Apr - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Oppenheimer's birth.
  • American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, by Kai Bird, Martin J. Sherwin. - book suggestion.
  • Booklist for Robert Oppenheimer.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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