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Of Historical Note: Edward R. Murrow with J. Robert Oppenheimer

Published 2013

Interview with J Robert Oppenheimer RARE

On January 4, 1955, Edward R. Murrow visited the Institute for Advanced Study to interview J. Robert Oppenheimer, the Institute’s third Director. The following is an excerpt from their conversation:

MURROW: I have heard you describe [the Institute] as a “decompression chamber.”

OPPENHEIMER: Well, it is for many people. There are no telephones ringing, and you don’t have to go to committee meetings, and you don’t have to meet classes and—especially for the few people who are here for life—the first years are quite, quite remarkable, because most people depend on being interrupted in order to live. The work is so hard and failure is of course, I guess, an inevitable condition of success. So they’re used to having to attend to other people’s business. When they get here, there is nothing of that, and they can’t run away. It’s to help men who are creative and deep and active and struggling scholars and scientists to get the job done that it is their destiny to do. This is a big order, and we take a corner of it. We do the best we can.

Published in The Institute Letter Fall 2013