Title Image - Quotes by Author J. Robert Oppenheimer

Welcome to our collection of quotes by J. Robert Oppenheimer. We hope you enjoy pondering them and please share widely.

Wikipedia Summary for J. Robert Oppenheimer

J. Robert Oppenheimer (April 22, 1904 – February 18, 1967) was an American theoretical physicist who was professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley. Oppenheimer was the wartime head of the Los Alamos Laboratory and is among those who are credited with being the "father of the atomic bomb" for their role in the Manhattan Project – the World War II undertaking that developed the first nuclear weapons. Oppenheimer was among those who observed the Trinity test in New Mexico, where the first atomic bomb was successfully detonated on July 16, 1945.

He later remarked that the explosion brought to mind words from the Bhagavad Gita: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." In August 1945, the weapons were used in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

After the war ended, Oppenheimer became chairman of the influential General Advisory Committee of the newly created United States Atomic Energy Commission. He used that position to lobby for international control of nuclear power to avert nuclear proliferation and a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union. He opposed the development of the hydrogen bomb during a 1949–1950 governmental debate on the question and subsequently took stances on defense-related issues that provoked the ire of some factions in the U.S. government and military. During the Second Red Scare, those stances, together with past associations Oppenheimer had with people and organizations affiliated with the Communist Party, led to him suffering the revocation of his security clearance in a much-written-about hearing in 1954. Effectively stripped of his direct political influence, he continued to lecture, write and work in physics. Nine years later, President John F. Kennedy awarded (and Lyndon B. Johnson presented) him with the Enrico Fermi Award as a gesture of political rehabilitation.

Oppenheimer's achievements in physics included the Born–Oppenheimer approximation for molecular wave functions, work on the theory of electrons and positrons, the Oppenheimer–Phillips process in nuclear fusion, and the first prediction of quantum tunneling. With his students he also made important contributions to the modern theory of neutron stars and black holes, as well as to quantum mechanics, quantum field theory, and the interactions of cosmic rays. As a teacher and promoter of science, he is remembered as a founding father of the American school of theoretical physics that gained world prominence in the 1930s. After World War II, he became director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.

The powerful notion of entropy, which comes from a very special branch of physics is certainly useful in the study of communication and quite helpful when applied in the theory of language.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

To try to become happy is to try to build a machine with no other specifications than it shall run noiselessly.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

When you see something that is technically sweet you go ahead and do it.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

Taken as a story of human achievement, and human blindness, the discoveries in the sciences are among the great epics.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

The powerful notion of entropy, which comes from a very special branch of physics … is certainly useful in the study of communication and quite helpful when applied in the theory of language.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

This is a world in which each of us, knowing his limitations, knowing the evils of superficiality and the terrors of fatigue, will have to cling to what is close to him, to what he knows, to what he can do.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

We know that the wages of secrecy are corruption. We know that in secrecy error, undetected, will flourish and subvert.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

Maybe General Groves was right. Maybe we should just banish thinking forever.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

Today, it is not only that our kings do not know mathematics, but our philosophers do not know mathematics and -- to go a step further -- our mathematicians do not know mathematics.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

Optimists think that this is the best of all possible worlds; pessimists fear they are right.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

There are no secrets about the world of nature. There are secrets about the thoughts and intentions of men.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

There must be no barriers for freedom of inquiry... There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

To the confusion of our enemies.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

The most beautiful philosophical song existing in any known tongue.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

In the spring of 1929, I returned to the United States. I was homesick for this country. I had learned in my student days a great deal about the new physics. I wanted to pursue this myself, to explain it, and to foster its cultivation.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

There is something irreversible about acquiring knowledge; and the simulation of the search for it differs in a most profound way from the reality.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

Discovery follows discovery, each both raising and answering questions, each ending a long search, and each providing the new instruments for a new search.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

When we deny the EVIL within ourselves, we dehumanize ourselves, and we deprive ourselves not only of our own destiny but of any possibility of dealing with the EVIL of others.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

It is not possible to be a scientist unless you believe that it is good to learn... that it is of the highest value to share your knowledge... with anyone who is interested... that the knowledge of the world, and the power which this gives, is a thing which is of intrinsic value to humanity.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

I can't think that it would be terrible of me to say -- and it is occasionally true -- that I need physics more than friends.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

In a free world, if it is to remain free, we must maintain, with our lives if need be, but surely by our lives, the opportunity for a man to learn anything.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

When all thermonuclear sources of energy are exhausted a sufficiently heavy star will collapse. Unless fission due to rotation, the radiation of mass, or the blowing off of mass by radiation, reduce the star's mass to the order of that of the sun, this contraction will continue indefinitely.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

Things which stimulate my curiosity are pretty far removed from the practical and therefore from classification.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

A pragmatist is concerned with results, not reality.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

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

It is a profound and necessary truth that the deep things in science are not found because they are useful; they are found because it was possible to find them.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

To try to be happy is to try to build a machine with no other specification than that it shall run noiselessly.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

The Vedas are the greatest privilege of this century.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

If we ask, for instance, whether the position of the electron remains the same, we must say 'no'; if we ask whether the electron's position changes with time, we must say 'no'; if we ask whether the electron is at rest, we must say 'no'; if we ask whether it is in motion, we must say 'no'.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita... Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds. I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

The history of science is rich in example of the fruitfulness of bringing two sets of techniques, two sets of ideas, developed in separate contexts for the pursuit of new truth, into touch with one another.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

Pragmatism is an intellectually safe but ultimately sterile philosophy.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds. (quoting the Bhagavad-Gita after witnessing the first Nuclear explosion.).

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

We may be likened to two scorpions in a bottle, each capable of killing the other, but only at the risk of his own life.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

We do not believe any group of men adequate enough or wise enough to operate without scrutiny or without criticism. We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it, that the only way to detect it is to be free to inquire. We know that in secrecy error, undetected, will flourish and subvert.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer


The physicists have known sin; and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

I need physics more than friends.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer


We do not believe any group of men adequate enough or wise enough to operate without scrutiny or without criticism.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

It worked. (said after witnessing the first atomic detonation).

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

To recruit staff, I traveled all over the country talking with people who had been working on one or another aspect of the atomic-energy enterprise and people in radar work, for example, and underwater sound, telling them about the job, the place that we are going to, and enlisting their enthusiasm.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

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 of Hiroshima.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

I never accepted Communist dogma or theory.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

Science is not everything, but science is very beautiful.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

My mother was born in Baltimore, and before her marriage, she was an artist and teacher of art.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

I had had a continuing smoldering fury about the treatment of Jews in Germany.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

It is a profound and necessary truth that the deep things in science are not found because they are useful: they are found because it was possible to find them.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

There must be no barriers to freedom of inquiry. There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

The peoples of this world must unite or they will perish.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

Scientists are not delinquents. Our work has changed the conditions in which men live, but the use made of these changes is the problem of governments, not of scientists.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

No man should escape our universities without knowing how little he knows.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

There are children playing in the streets who could solve some of my top problems in physics, because they have modes of sensory perception that I lost long ago.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

My life as a child did not prepare me for the fact that the world is full of cruel and bitter things.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

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

Any man whose errors take ten years to correct is quite a man.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

The optimist thinks this is the best of all possible worlds. The pessimist fears it is true.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

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

I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

In the spring of 1936, I was introduced by friends to Jean Tatlock. In the autumn, I began to court her. We were at least twice close enough to marriage to think of ourselves as engaged.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

It is a profound and necessary truth that the deep things in science are not found because they are useful; they were found because it was possible to find them.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

Both the man of science and the man of action live always at the edge of mystery, surrounded by it.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

My childhood did not prepare me for the fact that the world is full of cruel and bitter things.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

Access to the Vedas is the greatest privilege this century may claim over all previous centuries.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

In the material sciences these are and have been, and are most surely likely to continue to be heroic days.

--J. Robert Oppenheimer

Know a quote that we are missing? Please use our suggest a quote form below and let us know. Thank YOU for visiting -- we wish you a perfect day!