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

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

American theoretical physicist and science administrator.


J. Robert Oppenheimer Quotes on World (8 quotes)

>> Click for 24 Science Quotes by J. Robert Oppenheimer

>> Click for J. Robert Oppenheimer Quotes on | Atomic Bomb | Knowledge | Science |

A discovery in science, or a new theory, even when it appears most unitary and most all-embracing, deals with some immediate element of novelty or paradox within the framework of far vaster, unanalysed, unarticulated reserves of knowledge, experience, faith, and presupposition. Our progress is narrow; it takes a vast world unchallenged and for granted. This is one reason why, however great the novelty or scope of new discovery, we neither can, nor need, rebuild the house of the mind very rapidly. This is one reason why science, for all its revolutions, is conservative. This is why we will have to accept the fact that no one of us really will ever know very much. This is why we shall have to find comfort in the fact that, taken together, we know more and more.
— J. Robert Oppenheimer
Science and the Common Understanding (1954), 53-4.
Science quotes on:  |  Acceptance (41)  |  Analysis (123)  |  Articulation (2)  |  Challenge (37)  |  Comfort (42)  |  Conservative (7)  |  Discovery (591)  |  Element (129)  |  Experience (268)  |  Fact (609)  |  Faith (131)  |  Framework (15)  |  Granted (3)  |  House (36)  |  Immediate (27)  |  Knowledge (1128)  |  Mind (544)  |  Narrow (33)  |  Need (211)  |  Novelty (19)  |  Paradox (35)  |  Progress (317)  |  Rapidly (10)  |  Reason (330)  |  Rebuild (3)  |  Reserve (7)  |  Revolution (56)  |  Scope (13)  |  Theory (582)  |  Unitary (2)  |  Vastness (9)

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 (101)  |  Control (93)  |  Enquiry (75)  |  Light (246)  |  Mankind (196)  |  Necessity (125)  |  Reality (140)  |  Research (517)  |  Scientist (447)  |  Value (180)

I am become death, The Shatterer of Worlds.
[Quoting from the 2,000-year-old Bhagavad Gita of India at the instant the first test atomic device exploded.]
— J. Robert Oppenheimer
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 (101)  |  Death (270)  |  World (667)

I think that the unity we can seek lies really in two things. One is that the knowledge which comes to us at such a terrifyingly, inhumanly rapid rate has some order in it. We are allowed to forget a great deal, as well as to learn. This order is never adequate. The mass of ununderstood things, which cannot be summarized, or wholly ordered, always grows greater; but a great deal does get understood.
The second is simply this: we can have each other to dinner. We ourselves, and with each other by our converse, can create, not an architecture of global scope, but an immense, intricate network of intimacy, illumination, and understanding. Everything cannot be connected with everything in the world we live in. Everything can be connected with anything.
— J. Robert Oppenheimer
Concluding paragraphs of 'The Growth of Science and the Structure of Culture', Daedalus (Winter 1958), 87, No. 1, 76.
Science quotes on:  |  Adequate (18)  |  Architecture (35)  |  Connected (7)  |  Converse (4)  |  Create (98)  |  Deal (25)  |  Dinner (9)  |  Forget (40)  |  Global (14)  |  Great (300)  |  Illumination (12)  |  Immense (28)  |  Intimacy (4)  |  Intricate (14)  |  Knowledge (1128)  |  Learn (160)  |  Live (186)  |  Network (10)  |  Order (167)  |  Rapid (17)  |  Rate (22)  |  Scope (13)  |  Summarize (7)  |  Understanding (317)  |  Unity (43)  |  World (667)

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 (4)  |  Atomic Bomb (101)  |  Curse (9)  |  Hiroshima (13)  |  Los Alamos (3)  |  Mankind (196)  |  Name (118)  |  Nation (111)  |  War (144)  |  World (667)

If the radiance of a thousand suns
Were to burst at once into the sky
That would be like the splendour of the Mighty One...
I am become Death,
The shatterer of worlds.
[Quoted after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.]
— J. Robert Oppenheimer
Sacred Hindu Epic, Bhagavad Gita. Quoted in A. Berry (ed.), Harrop's Book of Scientific Anecdotes (1989), 175.
Science quotes on:  |  Burst (17)  |  Death (270)  |  Poem (85)  |  Radiance (5)  |  Shattering (2)  |  Sky (68)  |  Splendour (2)  |  Sun (211)  |  Thousand (106)  |  World (667)

The open society, the unrestricted access to knowledge, the unplanned and uninhibited association of men for its furtherance—these are what may make a vast, complex, ever growing, ever changing, ever more specialized and expert technological world, nevertheless a world of human community.
— J. Robert Oppenheimer
'Science and the Common Understanding' (1954), 95. Reprinted in John Dewey and Julius A. Sigler, Classical Selections On Great Issues, Vol. 8, Science, Technology, and Society (1997), 35.
Science quotes on:  |  Access (12)  |  Knowledge (1128)  |  Society (188)

[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 (101)  |  Challenge (37)  |  Commitment (11)  |  Control (93)  |  Evil (67)  |  Faith (131)  |  Good (228)  |  Insight (57)  |  Knowledge (1128)  |  Power (273)  |  Question (315)  |  Seldom (21)  |  Understand (189)  |  Weapon (57)  |  World (667)


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
Quotations by: • Albert Einstein • Isaac Newton • Lord Kelvin • Charles Darwin • Srinivasa Ramanujan • Carl Sagan • Florence Nightingale • Thomas Edison • Aristotle • Marie Curie • Benjamin Franklin • Winston Churchill • Galileo Galilei • Sigmund Freud • Robert Bunsen • Louis Pasteur • Theodore Roosevelt • Abraham Lincoln • Ronald Reagan • Leonardo DaVinci • Michio Kaku • Karl Popper • Johann Goethe • Robert Oppenheimer • Charles Kettering  ... (more people)

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