In national research laboratories, such as Los Alamos or Livermore in the USA, Chelyabinsk or Arzamas in Russia, and Aldermaston in the UK, many thousands of scientists are employed doing pure and applied research for specific purposes, cloaked in secrecy, purposes that I see as the negation of scientific pursuit: the development of new, or the improvement of old weapons of mass destruction. Among these thousands there may be some scientists who are motivated by considerations of national security. The vast majority, however, have no such motivation; in the past they were lured into this work by the siren call of rapid advancement and unlimited opportunity. What is going on in these laboratories is not only a terrible waste of scientific endeavour but a perversion of the noble calling of science.
The Nobel Laureate Hans Bethe, who was a most distinguished physicist, and one-time leader of the Manhattan Project, said:
“Today we are rightly in an era of disarmament and dismantlement of nuclear weapons. But in some countries nuclear weapons development still continues. Whether and when the various Nations of the World can agree to stop this is uncertain. But individual scientists can still influence this process by withholding their skills.
Accordingly, I call on all scientists in all countries to cease and desist from work creating, developing, improving and manufacturing further nuclear weapons – and, for that matter, other weapons of potential mass destruction such as chemical and biological weapons.”
I would like to see an endorsement of this call by the scientific community. I will go further and suggest that the scientific community should demand the elimination of nuclear weapons and, in the first instance, request that the nuclear powers honour their obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Let me, in conclusion, remind you that the basic human value is life itself; the most important of human rights is the right to live. It is the duty of scientists to see to it that, through their work, life will not be put into peril, but will be made safe and its quality enhanced.
About Professor Sir Joseph Rotblat KCMG, CBE, D.Sc., FRS, Nobel Peace Laureate, 1995: Professor Rotblat, now 97 years old, was born in Warsaw in 1908, and has been a British citizen since 1946. He is Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of London, and Emeritus President of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. During World War II, Professor Rotblat initiated work on the atom bomb at LiverpoolUniversity, and later joined the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. When it became clear that Germany was not working on the bomb, he resigned from the project, the only scientist to do so before the bomb was tested. He then changed his line of research to medicine and was Chief Physicist at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. He is the only living signer of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto of 1955. He has devoted his life to averting the danger posed by nuclear weapons, working with the Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs, the organization he helped to found, and with which he shares the Nobel Peace Prize. He is the author of some 400 publications. Professor Rotblat can be reached at Pugwash Conferences On Science And World Affairs, London Office, Ground Floor Flat, 63A Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3BJ, tel 020-7405, fax 020-7831 5651, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org website: www.pugwash.org
Background to the letter: In Geneva in April 2003, Pamela Meidell mentioned to Professor Rotblat that she once told the story of his walking away from the Manhattan Project in an interview with New Mexico Public Radio. She asked any nuclear scientist who was listening to the show to listen to his/her conscience and follow in Professor Rotblat’s footsteps. He was very eager to know if anyone had responded. Sadly, she didn’t know. Perhaps this message directly from him will bring forth a response.
On 6 July 2005, the Atomic Mirror wrote a letter to Professor Joseph Rotblat, the only nuclear scientist to walk away from the Manhattan Project, asking if he would like to send a message back to Los Alamos for the 16 July remembrance of the birth of the nuclear age. He graciously responded with the message above.