Julius Robert Oppenheimer was the son of a German Jewish migrant to USA. Under his supervision, the Manhattan project was carried, which ultimately resulted in first modern nuclear weapons. Eventually these atomic bombs were dropped in Hiroshima & Nagasaki.

Many in Germany (including Nazis) were influenced by Bhagavad Gita and had their own interpretations. Oppenheimer also had referred Gita in Sanskrit & he referred few quotes from the same.

Question: Which were the original verses for his references?


1 Answer 1


The most famous one is:

"I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

[source] In 1965, he was persuaded to quote again for a television broadcast: 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.

which is from,

श्री भगवानुवाच कालोऽस्मि लोकक्षयकृत्प्रवृद्धो लोकान्समाहर्तुमिह प्रवृत्तः। ऋतेऽपि त्वां न भविष्यन्ति सर्वे येऽवस्थिताः प्रत्यनीकेषु योधाः
BG 11.32 - Sri BhagawAna told: I am the expanded death(KAla) for the destruction of the worlds (loka); For hunting people here, I am activated; Except you (PAndava), all the soldiers situated in the confronting sides will not exist.

Additionally, after seeing the splendid effects of the atomic bomb explosion during the test, Oppenheimer recalled the following verse as well:

BG 11.12 - Should the effulgence of a thousand (several) suns blaze forth simultaneously in the sky, that might be similar to the radiance of that exalted One.

  • Opinion only, but I'd be surprised if I was wrong. I suggest that Oppenheimer had long anticipated the moments when he would use the quotes and that both were far from spontaneous. This seems very consistent with his general style. Commented Dec 26, 2017 at 6:28
  • The answer is fine but I think that was Krishna not Vishnu who is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty.
    – Rolen Koh
    Commented Dec 26, 2017 at 10:27
  • @RolenKoh, the segment of "Vishnu" is taken from Wikipedia to reference a quote by the scientist. Probably he referred "Krishna" as "Vishnu" during that interview.
    – iammilind
    Commented Dec 26, 2017 at 10:30

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