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.
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.
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.
Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds. (quoting the Bhagavad-Gita after witnessing the first Nuclear explosion.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My mother was born in Baltimore, and before her marriage, she was an artist and teacher of art.
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.
I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.
I never accepted Communist dogma or theory.
I had had a continuing smoldering fury about the treatment of Jews in Germany.
I saw what the Depression was doing to my students. Often they could get no jobs, or jobs which were wholly inadequate. And through them, I began to understand how deeply political and economic events could affect men's lives. I began to feel the need to participate more fully in the life of the community.
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.
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.
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.