73+ Best J. Robert Oppenheimer Quotes: Exclusive Selection

Julius Robert Oppenheimer was an American theoretical physicist and professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley. Profoundly inspirational J. Robert Oppenheimer quotes will challenge the way you think, and help guide you through any life experience.

Famous J. Robert Oppenheimer Quotes

All history teaches us that these questions that we think the pressing ones will be transmuted before they are answered, that they will be replaced by others, and that the very process of discovery will shatter the concepts that we today use to describe our puzzlement. – J. Robert Oppenheimer

It is perfectly obvious that the whole world is going to hell. The only possible chance that it might not is that we do not attempt to prevent it from doing so. – J. Robert Oppenheimer

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

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

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

Despite the vision and farseeing wisdom of our wartime heads of state, the physicists have felt the 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

To the confusion of our enemies. – J. Robert Oppenheimer

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. – 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

Science is not everything, but science is very beautiful. – 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

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

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

The greatest of the changes that science has brought is the acuity of change; the greatest novelty the extent of novelty. – 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

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

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

Sometimes the answer to fear does not lie in trying to explain away the causes, sometimes the answer lies in courage. – J. Robert Oppenheimer

Bertrand Russell had given a talk on the then new quantum mechanics, of whose wonders he was most appreciative. He spoke hard and earnestly in the New Lecture Hall. And when he was done, Professor Whitehead, who presided, thanked him for his efforts, and not least for ‘leaving the vast darkness of the subject unobscured’. – 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

Science starts with preconception, with the common culture, and with common sense. It moves on to observation, is marked by the discovery of paradox, and is then concerned with the correction of preconception. It moves then to use these corrections for the designing of further observation and for more refined experiment. And as it moves along this course the nature of the evidence and experience that nourish it becomes more and more unfamiliar; it is not just the language that is strange [to common culture]. – J. Robert Oppenheimer

The theory of our modern technic shows that nothing is as practical as theory. – J. Robert Oppenheimer

‘It worked.’ (said after witnessing the first atomic detonation). – J. Robert Oppenheimer

I think that all things which evoke discipline: study, and our duties to men and to the commonwealth, war, and personal hardship, and even the need for subsistence, ought to be greeted by us with profound gratitude, for only through them can we attain to the least detachment; and only so can we know peace. – 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

I am become death, the destroyer of worlds. – 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

A pragmatist is concerned with results, not reality. – J. Robert Oppenheimer

The best way to send information is to wrap it up in a person. – J. Robert Oppenheimer

We know too much for one man to know too much. – 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

Genius sees the answer before the question. – J. Robert Oppenheimer

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

We hunger for nobility: the rare words and acts that harmonize simplicity and truth. – 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 most beautiful philosophical song existing in any known tongue. – J. Robert Oppenheimer

We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita; Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and, to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds. I suppose we all thought that, one way or another. – J. Robert Oppenheimer

It is proper to the role of the scientist that he not merely find new truth and communicate it to his fellows, but that he teach, that he try to bring the most honest and intelligible account of new knowledge to all who will try to learn. – J. Robert Oppenheimer

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

We may anticipate a state of affairs in which two Great Powers will each be in a position to put an end to the civilization and life of the other, though not without risking its own. 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

If we must live with a perpetual sense that the world and the men in it are greater than we and too much for us, let it be the measure of our virtue that we know this and seek no comfort. – J. Robert Oppenheimer

Pragmatism is an intellectually safe but ultimately sterile philosophy. – J. Robert Oppenheimer

The people of this world must unite or they will perish. – J. Robert Oppenheimer

The general notions about human understanding…which are illustrated by discoveries in atomic physics are not in the nature of things wholly unfamiliar, wholly unheard of, or new. Even in our own culture, they have a history, and in Buddhist and Hindu thought a more considerable and central place. What we shall find is an exemplification, an encouragement, and a refinement of old wisdom. – J. Robert Oppenheimer

The Vedas are the greatest privilege of this century. – 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

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

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

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

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

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

You can certainly destroy enough of humanity so that only the greatest act of faith can persuade you that what’s left will be human. – J. Robert Oppenheimer

Submit an agreement providing for the peaceful absorbtion of a celestial races in such a manner that our culture would remain intact with guarantee that their presence not be revealed. One must consider the fact that mis-identification of these space craft for a intercontinental missile in a re-entry phase of flight could lead to accidental nuclear war with horrible consequences. – 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

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

This world of ours is a new world, in which the unit of knowledge, the nature of human communities, the order of society, the order of ideas, the very notions of society and culture have changed, and will not return to what they have been in the past. What is new is new, not because it has never been there before, but because it has changed in quality. – J. Robert Oppenheimer

I need physics more than friends. – J. Robert Oppenheimer

Truth, not a pet, is man’s best friend. – J. Robert Oppenheimer

Everyone wants rather to be pleasing to women and that desire is not altogether, though it is very largely, a manifestation of vanity. But one cannot aim to be pleasing to women any more than one can aim to have taste, or beauty of expression, or happiness; for these things are not specific aims which one may learn to attain; they are descriptions of the adequacy of one’s living. 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 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

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

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

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

It was a heroic time. It was not the doing of any one man; it involved the collaboration of scores of scientists from many different lands. But from the first to last the deeply creative, subtle and critical spirit of Niels Bohr guided, restrained, deepened and finally transmuted the enterprise. – 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

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

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

Maybe General Groves was right. Maybe we should just banish thinking forever. – J. Robert Oppenheimer

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