As fans in India excitedly wait for the release of Christopher Nolan‘s new film, Oppenheimer, many have revisited the famed nuclear physicist’s iconic reference to the Bhagavad Gita. Oppenheimer has often quoted from the sacred text, making the words synonymous with his achievements.
First nuclear bombs were produced as a result of Oppenheimer’s research. After the bomb was successfully tested in the New Mexico desert in 1945, he has frequently recalled that the first words that came to mind were taken from the Gita: “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One… I am become death, the shatterer of worlds.”
In 1948, a Time Magazine report described Oppenheimer’s reaction to the atomic bomb’s devastating impact on Japan. He described his tenser demeanor as he held onto a post to steady himself. Oppenheimer’s ethical complexities remained a concern even years later. The bomb’s destruction confirmed his fears, and he told fellow physicists that the bomb “dramatized the inhumanity and evil of modern war.” He believed that physicists had known sin and that this knowledge could not be lost.
Oppenheimer recalled the emotions felt in the control room during the bombings on Japan, referencing the Bhagavad-Gita. He worked to regulate atomic energy by heading the Atomic Energy Commission’s General Advisory Committee and serving on the atomic committee of the Research and Development Board.
The film Oppenheimer, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book American Prometheus, will feature the 1945 test and Oppenheimer’s face lit up by the explosion. Advance bookings began three weeks before the release date, but were temporarily halted due to an A certificate from the Central Board of Film Certification.