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Weapon Quotes (38 quotes)

Air Chief Marshal Harris [objecting to a change in strategy recommended by statisticians]: Are we fighting this war with weapons or the slide rule?
Churchill [after puffing on his cigar]: That's a good idea. Let's try the slide rule.
During World War II, Britain lost the advantage when enemy U-boats began listening in to the aircraft radar, were forewarned, and would dive. U-boat sinkings fell to zero. Physicist Patrick S. Blackett with his Operational Research colleagues came up with a solution. Concentrate sufficient aircraft in certain areas, causing the subs to dive so frequently their air supply and batteries were exhausted, forcing them to remain on the surface and be vulnerable to attack. The strategy required diverting several squadrons from Bomber Command to Coastal Command. “Bomber” Harris voiced his objection to Churchill, who made the right choice, proved by successful results. As described by R.V. Jones, 'Churchill and Science', in Robert Blake and Wm. Roger Louis (eds.), Churchill (1996), 437.
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A fear of intellectual inadequacy, of powerlessness before the tireless electronic wizards, has given rise to dozens of science-fiction fantasies of computer takeovers. ... Other scientists too are apprehensive. D. Raj Reddy, a computer scientist at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie-Mellon University, fears that universally available microcomputers could turn into formidable weapons. Among other things, says Reddy, sophisticated computers in the wrong hands could begin subverting a society by tampering with people’s relationships with their own computers—instructing the other computers to cut off telephone, bank and other services, for example.
An early prediction of DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service), viruses and worms like Stuxnet. As stated, without further citation, in 'The Age of Miracle Chips', Time (20 Feb 1978), 44. The article introduces a special section on 'The Computer Society.' Please contact Webmaster if you know a primary source.
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A weapon is a device for making your enemy change his mind.
The Vor Game (1900)

Above all, I regret that scientific experiments—some of them mine—should have produced such a terrible weapon as the hydrogen bomb. Regret, with all my soul, but not guilt.
Quoted in 'Moon-Struck Scientist,' New York Times (27 Apr 1961), 42.
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An atom-blaster is a good weapon, but it can point both ways.
In The FoundationTrilogy (1951), Vol. 2, 207.

Anyone who thinks we can continue to have world wars but make them nice polite affairs by outlawing this weapon or that should meditate upon the outlawing of the cross-bow by Papal authority. Setting up the machinery for international law and order must surely precede disarmament. The Wild West did not abandon its shooting irons till after sheriffs and courts were established.
Speech, American Library Assiciation Conference (3 Jul 1947), as quoted by Lawrence E. Davies in 'Army's Atomic Bid Viewed in Making', New York Times (4 Jul 1947), 11.
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Bismarck, enraged at Virchow's constant criticisms, has his seconds call upon the scientist to challenge him to a duel. 'As the challenged party, I have the choice of weapons,' said Virchow, 'and I chose these.' He held aloft two sausages. 'One of these,' he went on, 'is infected with deadly germs; the other is perfectly sound. Let his Excellency decide which one he wishes to eat, and I will eat the other.' Almost immediately the message came back that the chancellor had decided to laugh off the duel.
As quoted in Clifton Fadiman (ed.), André Bernard (ed.), Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes (2000), 556, citing E. Fuller, 2500 Anecdotes.
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Books won't stay banned. They won't burn. Ideas won't go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas. The source of better ideas is wisdom. The surest path to wisdom is a liberal education.
From Essays on Education. In Alfred Whitney Griswold, 1906-1963: In Memoriam (1964), 24.
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Carl Sagan quote A Subject Called Chemistry
Wellington College. CC by-NC 2.0 (source)
Chlorine is a deadly poison gas employed on European battlefields in World War I. Sodium is a corrosive metal which burns upon contact with water. Together they make a placid and unpoisonous material, table salt. Why each of these substances has the properties it does is a subject called chemistry.
Broca's Brain: The Romance of Science (1979), footnote. Excerpt reprinted as 'Can We Know the Universe? Reflections on a Grain of Salt,' in John Carey, Eyewitness to Science (1997), 437.
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Deprived, therefore, as regards this period, of any assistance from history, but relieved at the same time from the embarrassing interference of tradition, the archaeologist is free to follow the methods which have been so successfully pursued in geology—the rude bone and stone implements of bygone ages being to the one what the remains of extinct animals are to the other. The analogy may be pursued even further than this. Many mammalia which are extinct in Europe have representatives still living in other countries. Our fossil pachyderms, for instance, would be almost unintelligible but for the species which still inhabit some parts of Asia and Africa; the secondary marsupials are illustrated by their existing representatives in Australia and South America; and in the same manner, if we wish clearly to understand the antiquities of Europe, we must compare them with the rude implements and weapons still, or until lately, used by the savage races in other parts of the world. In fact, the Van Diemaner and South American are to the antiquary what the opossum and the sloth are to the geologist.
Pre-historic Times, as Illustrated by Ancient Remains, and the Manners and Customs of Modern Savages, (2nd ed. 1869, 1890), 429-430.
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Despite the vision and the far-seeing wisdom of our wartime heads of state, the physicists felt a peculiarly intimate responsibility for suggesting, for supporting, and in the end, in large measure, for achieving the realization of atomic weapons. Nor can we forget that these weapons, as they were in fact used, dramatized so mercilessly the inhumanity and evil of modern war. In some sort of crude sense which no vulgarity, no humor, no overstatement can quite extinguish, the physicists have known sin; and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose.
The Open Mind (1955), 88.
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Every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.
Address to the United Nations General Assembly, (25 Sep 1961). On U.S. Department of State website.
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I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace, to give us the means of rendering those nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete.
About his proposed Strategic Defense Initiative, later to be known as 'Star Wars.')
National address (23 Mar 1983)
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Imagine a room awash in gasoline, and there are two implacable enemies in that room. One of them has nine thousand matches. The other has seven thousand matches. Each of them is concerned about who's ahead, who's stronger. Well that's the kind of situation we are actually in. The amount of weapons that are available to the United States and the Soviet Union are so bloated, so grossly in excess of what's needed to dissuade the other, that if it weren't so tragic, it would be laughable. What is necessary is to reduce the matches and to clean up the gasoline.
From Sagan's analogy about the nuclear arms race and the need for disarmament, during a panel discussion in ABC News Viewpoint following the TV movie The Day After (20 Nov 1983). Transcribed by Webmaster from a video recording. It is seen misquoted in summary form as “The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing waist deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five.”
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In the arts of life main invents nothing; but in the arts of death he outdoes Nature herself, and produces by chemistry and machinery all the slaughter of plague, pestilence and famine. … There is nothing in Man's industrial machinery but his greed and sloth: his heart is in his weapons.
Play, Man and Superman: A Comedy and a Philosophy (1903)
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It is by the aid of iron that we construct houses, cleave rocks, and perform so many other useful offices of life. But it is with iron also that wars, murders, and robberies are effected, and this, not only hand to hand, but from a distance even, by the aid of missiles and winged weapons, now launched from engines, now hurled by the human arm, and now furnished with feathery wings. This last I regard as the most criminal artifice that has been devised by the human mind; for, as if to bring death upon man with still greater rapidity, we have given wings to iron and taught it to fly. ... Nature, in conformity with her usual benevolence, has limited the power of iron, by inflicting upon it the punishment of rust; and has thus displayed her usual foresight in rendering nothing in existence more perishable, than the substance which brings the greatest dangers upon perishable mortality.
Natural History of Pliny, translation (1857, 1898) by John Bostock and H. T. Riley, 205-6.
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It is probable that all heavy matter possesses—latent and bound up with the structure of the atom—a similar quantity of energy to that possessed by radium. If it could be tapped and controlled, what an agent it would be in shaping the world's destiny! The man who puts his hand on the lever by which a parsimonious nature regulates so jealously the output of this store of energy would possess a weapon by which he could destroy the Earth if he chose.
A prescient remark on atomic energy after the discovery of radioactivity, but decades before the harnessing of nuclear fission in an atomic bomb became a reality.
Lecture to the Corps of Royal Engineers, Britain (19040. In Rodney P. Carlisle, Scientific American Inventions and Discoveries (2004), 373.
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It may be that ... when the advance of destructive weapons enables everyone to kill everybody else nobody will want to kill anyone at all. [Referring to the hydrogen bomb.]
Parliamentary debate concerning the hydrogen bomb (Nov 1953). In Robert Rhodes James, ed. Winston Churchill: His Complete Speeches, 1897-1963 (1974), Vol. 6, p.8505.
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It occurred to me that if I could invent a machine - a gun - which could by its rapidity of fire, enable one man to do as much battle duty as a hundred, that it would, to a large extent supersede the necessity of large armies, and consequently, exposure to battle and disease [would] be greatly diminished.
In P. Wahl and D. R. Toppel, The Gatling Gun (1966), 12.

Now any dogma, based primarily on faith and emotionalism, is a dangerous weapon to use on others, since it is almost impossible to guarantee that the weapon will never be turned on the user.
In The Foundation Trilogy (1951), 155.
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Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.
Commenting on the way the Vietnam War was being conducted by the U.S.
'The Man Who Was a Fool', Strength To Love (1963, 1981), 76.
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Science burrows its insulted head in the filth of slaughterous inventions.
Article in the Evening Standard (Sep 1936). Maxims and Reflections (1947), 176.
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Science unfolded her treasures and her secrets to the desperate demands of men, and placed in their hands agencies and apparatus almost decisive in their character.
Reflecting on the outcome of World War I, and an ominous future.
The Second World War: The Gathering Storm (1948, 1986), Vol. 1, 35. Quoting himself from his earlier book, The Aftermath: Being a Sequel to The World Crisis‎ (1929).
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The fact that no limits exist to the destructiveness of this weapon [the “Super”, i.e. the hydrogen bomb] makes its very existence and the knowledge of its construction a danger to humanity as a whole. It is necessarily an evil thing considered in any light. For these reasons, we believe it important for the President of the United States to tell the American public and the world what we think is wrong on fundamental ethical principles to initiate the development of such a weapon.
Enrico Fermi and I.I. Rabi, 'Minority Report of the General Advisory Committee', United States Atomic Energy Commission: In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer: Transcript of Hearing before Personnel Security Board, Washington, D.C. April 12th 1954—May 6th 1954 (1954), 79-80.
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The knife is the most permanent, the most immortal, the most ingenious of man's creations. The knife was a guillotine; the knife is a universal means of resolving all knots...
We (1924), translated by Clarence Brown (1993), 113.
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The marriage of reason and nightmare which has dominated the 20th century has given birth to an ever more ambiguous world. Across the communications landscape move the specters of sinister technologies and the dreams that money can buy. Thermonuclear weapons systems and soft drink commercials coexist in an overlit realm ruled by advertising and pseudoevents, science and pornography. Over our lives preside the great twin leitmotifs of the 20th century—sex and paranoia.
Crash (1973, 1995), catalogue notes. In J. G. Ballard, The Kindness of Women (2007), 221.
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The only use for an atomic bomb is to keep somebody else from using one. It can give us no protection—only the doubtful satisfaction of retaliation.
From speech given at an anti-war teach-in at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, (4 Mar 1969) 'A Generation in Search of a Future', as edited by Ron Dorfman for Chicago Journalism Review, (May 1969).
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The pen is mightier than the sword … only if the sword is very small and the pen is very sharp.
The Light Fantastic (1986)

The science of weapons and war has made us all one world and one human race with one common destiny.
Address Before the 18th General Assembly of the United Nations, 20 Sep 1963. In Edward C. Luck, Mixed Messages: American Politics and International Organization, 1919-1999 (1999), 41.
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The simple rule about weapons is that if thery can be built, they will be built.
Accidental Empires (1992), 79.
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The sole precoccupation of this learned society was the destruction of humanity for philanthropic reasons and the perfection of weapons as instruments of civilization.
From the Earth to the Moon, translated by Walter James Miller (1978)
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The study of mathematics is apt to commence in disappointment. … We are told that by its aid the stars are weighed and the billions of molecules in a drop of water are counted. Yet, like the ghost of Hamlet's father, this greatest science eludes the efforts of our mental weapons to grasp it.
Opening of Chap 1, in An Introduction to Mathematics (1911), 7.
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The terror created by weaponry has never stopped men from employing them.
Speech to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission (14 Jun 1946). In Alfred J. Kolatch, Great Jewish Quotations (1996), 39.
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There is no such thing as a good nuclear weapons system. There is no way to achieve, in the sound sense, national security through nuclear weapons.
Quoted from interview (1983) in 'Herbert York dies at 87', L.A. Times (21 May 2009)
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This new power, which has proved itself to be such a terrifying weapon of destruction, is harnessed for the first time for the common good of our community. [Upon opening Calder Hall nuclear power station in 1956.]
Speech, reproduced in Nuclear Power: The Journal of British Nuclear Engineering (1956), Vol. 1, 274.
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This weapon [the atomic bomb] has added an additional responsibility—or, better, an additional incentive—to find a sound basis for lasting peace. It provides an overwhelming inducement for the avoidance of war. It emphasizes the crisis we face in international matters and strengthens the conviction that adequate safeguards for peace must be found.
Opening address (7 Nov 1945) of Town Hall’s annual lecture series, as quoted in 'Gen. Groves Warns on Atom ‘Suicide’', New York Times (8 Nov 1945), 4. (Just three months before he spoke, two atom bombs dropped on Japan in Aug 1945 effectively ended WW II.)
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We are in the grip of a scientific materialism, caught in a vicious cycle where our security today seems to depend on regimentation and weapons which will ruin us tomorrow.
Quoted in 'Antiseptic Christianity', book review of Lindbergh, Of Flight and Life in Time magazine, (6 Sep 1948).
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[W]e have made a thing, a most terrible weapon, that has altered abruptly and profoundly the nature of the world. We have made a thing that, by all standards of the world we grew up in, is an evil thing. And by doing so, by our participation in making it possible to make these things, we have raised again the question of whether science is good for man, of whether it is good to learn about the world, to try to understand it, to try to control it, to help give to the world of men increased insight, increased power. Because we are scientists, we must say an unalterable yes to these questions; it is our faith and our commitment, seldom made explicit, even more seldom challenged, that knowledge is a good in itself, knowledge and such power as must come with it.
Speech to the American Philosophical Society (Jan 1946). 'Atomic Weapons', printed in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 90(1), 7-10. In Deb Bennett-Woods, Nanotechnology: Ethics and Society (2008), 23. Identified as a speech to the society in Kai Bird, Martin J. Sherwin, American Prometheus: the Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer‎ (2005), 323.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton

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