Joseph Rotblat, Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs

Nobel Peace Prize 1995

Joseph Rotblat

(1908-2005)

Scientist opposed to nuclear weapons

When Joseph Rotblat was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995, 50 years had passed since the atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But it was 52 years since Joseph Rotblat had first taken a stance against the development of the new weapons of mass destruction. In his opinion, science and research should serve the cause of peace.Of Jewish descent, Rotblat was born in Warsaw, Poland. He studied physics and took up research in Great Britain in 1939. His work on splitting the atom led him to the conclusion that it was possible to produce an atomic bomb. In 1943 he was given permission to withdraw from the Manhattan Project, in which the United States and Great Britain were cooperating on the production of nuclear weapons. To Rotblat it was clear that Germany would not manage to make an atomic bomb before the war was over. He also feared that nuclear weapons might be used in a clash with the communist Soviet Union.During the post-war period, Joseph Rotblat has done an enormous amount of work in the cause of peace, dialogue and disarmament through the Pugwash movement, with which he shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995.

The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs

The aim of the Pugwash Conferences is to diminish the role of nuclear arms in international politics. Underlying the holding of the first conference in Pugwash, Canada, in 1957 was the Russell-Einstein Manifesto against weapons of mass destruction that had been issued in 1955. The object was to involve and inform people, and Albert Einstein and the mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell were prime movers.One of those who was stirred to enthusiasm was the Canadian businessman Cyrus Eaton. He financed the first international conference of independent scientists in his home town of Pugwash. Up to the Peace Prize award in 1995, 37 conferences had been held.Three issues have been most important to Pugwash: the dangers of nuclear energy in war and peace, control of nuclear weapons, and the responsibility of science to society.During the Cold War, the Pugwash movement served as a channel of communication between the communist Eastern block and the Western democracies. Participants played important parts behind the scenes in bringing about nuclear test ban and non-proliferation treaties.