[Robert Oppenheimer on "See it Now"]

Sunday, January 23, 1955

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

Gilbert Seldes begins by saying, "I'm going to do a broadcast about a broadcast." Referring to a broadcast a few weeks earlier on See It Now, Edward Murrow's interview with Oppenheimer. He and others would like to have it repeated. Oppenheimer one of the most controversial figures. As he wrote something on a blackboard, he said when it comes to necessity, "all you can do is guess in the night and correct in the daytime." Oppenheimer discusses the social problems that arise with science. Dealing with a poet as well as a scientist. Talks about the Institute of Advanced Studies. Mentions notable members and visitors: Einstein, Piaget, T.S. Eliot. Life in the Institute. Take away distractions. Make it impossible for them to escape doing their work and dodge the dreadful responsibility of "fulfilling their destiny." Oppenheimer talked about communication. Opposed to secrecy when it comes to science. He was asked if we have advanced, that we can see the destruction of humanity? Replies "you can destroy enough humanity so that only a great act of faith can persuade you that what's left will be human."

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 70385
Municipal archives id: LT6748

Hosted by:

Gilbert Seldes


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About Lively Arts, The

Legendary critic and author of The Seven Lively Arts Gilbert Seldes discusses big-thinking issues in art and life from his characteristically populist perspective.

Simultaneously a timely and visionary program, Gilbert Seldes's The Lively Arts (1953-1956) examines contemporary issues of 1950s television, radio, and theater, as well as current events and the intellectual arts. Seldes, who was the first Director for Television at CBS News and the founding Dean of the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, was also a renowned critic, author, playwright, and editor. As a major social critic and observer, Seldes viewed theater, television, and radio with a prescient eye to the future based on a well-informed understanding of the past. 

These programs feature commentary and discussion on a wide range of topics — from sex and censorship in the movies to progressive education to juvenile delinquency to political campaigning on television — many of which are still hotly debated today. Serving as a precursor to Seldes's television programs and providing an audio context for his seminal books, this show is key to understanding today's cultural commentary.


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