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A history of violence?

Scientists make ethical choices

Vanguard class nuclear submarine used by the UK Royal Navy

There are many examples of scientists making ethical choices, especially about war.

  • Michael Faraday refused to take part in the preparation of poison gas for use in the Crimean War.
  • The suicide of Fritz Haber’s wife, herself a talented chemist, was due partly at least to his work with poison gas in World War 1.
  • Arthur Eddington was a conscientious objector in the First World War, despite the difficulties this created at the beginning of his tenure of the Plumian chair of Astronomy at Cambridge.

Tax money spent on military projects is tax money that cannot be spent on the challenges of peace. The British government is proposing to replace Trident nuclear missiles. It also recognizes that a major world threat today (some say the major world threat) is global warming. Where do you think the money should be spent?


Should the scientific expertise and enormous resources needed to replace the Trident missile be used instead to understand climate change and mitigate its effects?

You can find detailed case studies on scientists and ethical choice in the People section.

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