University of Bristol
Institute of Physics logo
Why not try our other site: BEEP Biology & Ethics

Joseph Rotblat

The Pugwash Conferences

Open Quote: … we feel that scientists should assemble in conference to appraise the perils that have arisen as a result of the development of weapons of mass destruction…

We are speaking on this occasion, not as members of this or that nation, continent, or creed, but as human beings, members of the species Man, whose continued existence is in doubt. The world is full of conflicts…

Almost everybody who is politically conscious has strong feelings about one or more of these issues; but we want you, if you can, to set aside such feelings and consider yourselves only as members of a biological species which has had a remarkable history, and whose disappearance none of us can desire.Close Quote:

So begins the 1955 statement that became known as the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, named after the mathematician Bertrand Russell and the scientist Albert Einstein. The Manifesto closed with a strong warning:

Open Quote:We appeal, as human beings, to human beings: Remember your humanity and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open for a new paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death.Close Quote:

Jo Rotblat was the youngest of the 11 scientists to sign this statement, calling for scientists to meet together and discuss the risks associated with weapons of mass destruction. Most of the others were Nobel Prize winners. Jo planned a follow-up conference in Pugwash, Nova Scotia, Canada and from this a new organisation was born – the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs 

The Cold War was a conflict over deep political differences between the USA and the Soviet Union. It lasted from the late 1940s until the early 1990s, and was carried on by every method short of direct military action. Even at the height of the Cold War, the Pugwash Conferences were able to bring together scientists and public figures from both sides for private discussions. These meetings lay the foundations for important treaties such as the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, the Partial Test Ban Treaty, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and others.

Nobel Peace Prize 1995


Text equivalent: Impact upon future generations: is it fair for present generation alone to benefit when future generations will bear the consequences (e.g. long term global issues, such as risks of nuclear war, nuclear waste) ?.Text equivalent: Ethical code for scientistsText equivalent: Do no harm

The threat of a nuclear war between the Superpowers, USA and the Soviet Union (now Russia), seemed very real during the 1960s. Do you think there a still a danger of nuclear war today?

What conflicts in the world today do you think are potentially the most dangerous?
• the Middle East;
• shortage of water;
• energy security;
• space weapons;
• more countries developing nuclear weapons;


The Pugwash Conferences