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What languages did J. Robert Oppenheimer speak?

  1. Oct 8, 2014 #1
    What languages, except English, did J. Robert Oppenheimer speak?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 8, 2014 #2


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    According to the biographical entry of J. Robert Oppenheimer in Wikipedia, he had obtained his doctorate in physics at the University of Gottingen under Max Born, with his thesis written in German, so I presume he spoke German fluently (particularly given that his parents were Jewish immigrants from Germany, so he likely would have been exposed to the language at home as well). I have no idea if he was educated in or fluent in any other language.
  4. Oct 8, 2014 #3
    I'm curious why you ask.
  5. Oct 8, 2014 #4
    Is this all he can speak?


  6. Oct 8, 2014 #5
    I find this guy and his brother very fascinating. That's why I want to know more about him, including what languages he spoke.

    I have found that he spoke about 6 languages, but so far I know only about these 4:

    - his native language
    Sanskrit: In 1933 he learnedSanskritand met the IndologistArthur W. Ryderat Berkeley. He read theBhagavad Gitain the originalSanskritand later he cited it as one of the books that most shaped his philosophy of life.
    German - as mentioned by StatGuy2000 his doctorate thesis is written in German
    Dutch - In the autumn of 1928, Oppenheimer visitedPaul Ehrenfest's institute at theUniversity of Leiden, the Netherlands, where he impressed by giving lectures in Dutch, despite having little experience with the language.

    other possibilities that I am not sure:
    - Oppenheimer was a versatile scholar, interested in English and French literature, and particularly inmineralogy.
    ?Hebrew or Yiddish - he was Jewish so maybe his parents did teach him Hebrew or Yiddish
    ?Latin or Greek
  7. Oct 8, 2014 #6
    I see.

    This is a confusing statement. When you say, "I have found that he spoke about 6 languages," do you merely mean you read an assertion he spoke 6 languages?

    Due to the phrase, "despite having little experience with the language," it might not be correct to conclude he spoke Dutch. Based on his experience with German he might have undertaken to deliver lectures in Dutch if someone else wrote them, if he were provided with a good translation, and he had heavy coaching on the pronunciation. (I'd be willing to do that myself, having studied German four years in college, and finding that, when I am confronted with Dutch text I can 'decode' much more of it than I should be able to, never having studied it. It's very similar to German.) On the other hand, if he actually managed to write these lectures completely by himself, I'd conclude he spoke Dutch.
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