What was Robert Oppenheimer’s reaction to the first successful detonation of a nuclear bomb?

Oppenheimer had a profound reaction to the Trinity Test, the first detonation of a nuclear bomb. What was his reaction and how did it reflect his thoughts on nuclear warfare?

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J. Robert Oppenheimer, often referred as the "father of the atomic bomb", led the Manhattan Project that successfully detonated the world's first atomic bomb on July 16, 1945, known as the Trinity Test. Oppenheimer's response to the test was profoundly emotional and philosophical. Witnessing the immense power of the explosion, he reportedly recalled a line from the Hindu scripture the Bhagavad Gita - "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds". This quote signifies the awe, fear and guilt he felt witnessing the destructive capability of the creation he headed. It reflected his internal struggle - a blend of pride for having accomplished a massive scientific feat, but also a deep, melancholic understanding of the serious implications it held for humanity. In the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the moral and ethical implications weighed heavily on Oppenheimer. Warned about the potential for a nuclear arms race, he became an advocate for international control of nuclear power to prevent nuclear warfare. He also opposed the development of the hydrogen bomb. It's worth mentioning that while the quotation had been attributed to the immediate aftermath of the Trinity Test, it was actually shared publicly by Oppenheimer in an interview a few years later. Still, it shows the profound impact the event had on him and how he struggled with the ethical implications of his work. Future researchers into nuclear technology, warfare, and ethics can derive many lessons from Oppenheimer's reaction and subsequent philosophies. His story serves as a critical reminder of the importance of ethical considerations in science and technology advancements.
Answered on August 24, 2023.
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