About Canadian Pugwash Group

We are the national affiliate of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, an international organization, which had its birthplace in Pugwash, Nova Scotia in 1957 and which was awarded the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize together with its founder Sir Joseph Rotblat. The purpose of the Pugwash Conferences is to provide scholarly insights into the prevention and resolution of armed conflict, including nuclear and conventional disarmament, control of the arms trade, the peaceful settlement of disputes and to contribute to solutions for environmental threats to human security.

Education on global security, in a broad sense, is the mandate of the Canadian Pugwash Group, carried out by sponsoring conferences, roundtables and other events to foster informed discussion and to generate ideas and proposals relevant to the formulation of government policy. For example in recent years Canadian Pugwash has organized a conference on “Canada’s Contribution to Global Security” (July 2017) and one on “Towards a World Without Nuclear Weapons” (July 2015), both of which yielded a set of policy recommendations that were conveyed to the Government of Canada for consideration.

Canadian Pugwash Bylaws

On July 2, 2014, the Canadian Pugwash Group received a Certificate of Continuance under the Canada Not-for-Profit Corporations Act (NFP Act). The original incorporation of the organization was July 12, 1990. This followed a period of activity that dated as far back as the Pugwash foundation meeting in 1957.

Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs:

The Russell-Einstein Manifesto of 1955 was a call to action in the campaign to prevent war and to realize nuclear disarmament. wwnwGroup08-16-2012It was the inspiration behind the establishment in 1957 by the philanthropist Cyrus Eaton of the Pugwash Conferences and the gathering of scientists from East and West at his summer residence in the small seaside village of Pugwash, Nova Scotia (now the National Historic Site of “Thinkers Lodge”). Pugwash members continue to uphold the principles set out in the Russell-Einstein Manifesto.

Nobel Peace Prize

Canadian Pugwash Group member Setsuko Thurlow accepts the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of ICAN. Photo: Jo Straube

For more than sixty years the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs have been working for the control, reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear weapons. It was in recognition of these efforts that Pugwash, together with its President of the time, Joseph Rotblat, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In December 2017, Canadian Pugwash was honoured that one of its members, Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing, was selected to receive alongside the Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) the Nobel Peace Prize for ICAN’s efforts to ensure the negotiation of a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.


The Canadian Pugwash Group has two categories of members: full members who are elected by the current Board of Directors on the basis of a nomination originating with one or more of the current members. New members have made significant contributions in their professional lives to advancing the goals of the Pugwash movement. A category of Associate Members is aimed at individuals at an earlier stage of their careers or those unable to participate on a regular basis with Canadian Pugwash activities, who nevertheless support the principles of the movement and who wish to engage with like-minded colleagues. Associate Members are appointed by the Chair upon consultation with the Board of Directors. All members have access to a dedicated listserv for the sharing of articles and other information relevant to Canadian Pugwash’s mission. Please feel free to contact the Chair or Vice-Chair for information about becoming associated with Canadian Pugwash.

Please use the menu to explore our website and to find out about current peace and security issues and initiatives involving Canadian Pugwash members.

Permanence with Accountability: An Elusive Goal of the NPT

“Permanence with Accountability” was the refrain for many states parties to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) when it was indefinitely extended in 1995.

Accountability however was premised on the availability from the NPT’s five Nuclear Weapon States of sufficiently detailed and comparable data as to permit objective judgments as to the progress they were making on fulfilling their nuclear disarmament obligations under Article VI of the treaty. Consistent efforts by the NPT’s non-nuclear weapon states over the last 25 years have failed to persuade the five nuclear weapon states to be more forthcoming in their reporting to the NPT membership. My article on this effort and its implications for the next NPT Review Conference has just been published by the Journal of Peace and Nuclear Disarmament: “Permanence with Accountability”: An Elusive Goal of the NPT.

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Taking nuclear vulnerabilities seriously

Published in The Hindu, 6 August 2020

Seventy-five years ago, the Japanese city of Hiroshima was destroyed by one single atomic bomb. Three days later, a second bomb destroyed Nagasaki. Those two bombs killed over 200,000 people, some of them instantaneously, and others within five months. Another 200,000 people or more who survived the bombings of these two cities, most of them injured, have been called the Hibakusha. Because of the long-lasting effects of radiation exposure as well as the mental trauma they underwent, the plight of these survivors has been difficult. As Akihiro Takahashi, Hibakusha, testified: “I’ve been living on dragging my body full of sickness and from time to time I question myself I wonder if it is worth living in such hardship and pain”. But Takahashi and other Hibakusha have lived on and talked about their experiences in the hope that their plight would never befall anyone else.

While Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been the last two cities to be destroyed by nuclear weapons, we cannot be sure that they will be the last. Since 1945, the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea have armed themselves with nuclear weapons that have much more destructive power in comparison to those that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Damage and vulnerability

Over 126,000 nuclear weapons have been built since the beginning of the atomic age. Over 2000 of them have been used in nuclear tests, above and below the ground, to demonstrate their explosive power, causing grave and long-lasting damage to the environment and public health. But this damage is nothing compared to what might happen if some of the existing weapons are used against civilian populations.

An appreciation of the scale of the damage and the realization that nuclear weapons could be launched at any moment against any target around the world should instill a sense of vulnerability in all of us.

To appreciate why we are vulnerable, we should start by realizing that there is no realistic way to protect against nuclear weapons, whether they are used deliberately, inadvertently, or accidentally. The invention of ballistic missiles at the end of the 1950s, with their great speed of delivery, has made it impossible to intercept nuclear weapons once they are launched. Neither fallout shelters nor ballistic missile defense systems succeeded in negating this vulnerability. Nuclear weapons states are targets of other nuclear weapon states, of course, but non-nuclear weapons states are vulnerable as well.

The problems of deterrence

Nuclear weapon states have reacted to this vulnerability by coming up with a comforting idea: that the use of nuclear weapons is impossible because of deterrence. Nuclear weapons are so destructive that no country would use them, because such use would invite retaliation in kind, and no political leader would be willing to risk the possible death of millions of their citizens. That was the idea of deterrence. Deterrence enthusiasts claim that nuclear weapons do not just protect countries against use of nuclear weapons by others, but even prevent war and promote stability.

These claims do not hold up to evidence. Nuclear threats have not always produced fear and, in turn, fear has not always induced caution. To the contrary, nuclear threats in some cases produce anger, and anger can trigger a drive to escalate, as was the case with Fidel Castro during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Moreover, the apparent efficacy of deterrence in some cases may have been due to the more credible prospect of retaliation with conventional weapons. Countries with nuclear weapons have in fact gone to war quite often, even with other countries with nuclear weapons, albeit in a limited fashion or through proxies. Countries, however, might not always show such restraint.

Nor should nuclear deterrence be considered stable. Strategic planners routinely use worst-case assumptions about the intentions and capabilities of other countries to argue for the acquisition of greater destructive capabilities, driving endless upgrades of nuclear arsenals, and offering a rationale for new countries to acquire nuclear weapons.

Implicitly, however, all nuclear weapon states have admitted to the possibility that deterrence could fail: they have made plans for using nuclear weapons, in effect, preparing to fight nuclear war. The disjuncture between the ideal of possessing nuclear weapons for deterrence and the practical reality of keeping these weapons primed for use has been eloquently clarified by General Lee Butler, former Commander-in-Chief of the United States Strategic Command. After years of having the top operational responsibility for all US strategic nuclear forces, he observed: “The goal – the wish, really – might be to prevent nuclear war, but the operational plan had to be to wage war.” It is thus an illusion to think that nuclear war is impossible.

The illusion of control

A related illusion concerns the controllability of nuclear weapons. In the real world, it is not possible for planners to have complete control. However, the desire to believe in the perfect controllability and safety of nuclear weapons creates overconfidence, which is dangerous. Overconfidence, as many scholars studying safety will testify, is more likely to lead to accidents and possibly to the use of nuclear weapons. In several historical instances, what prevented the use of nuclear weapons was not control practices but either their failure or factors outside institutional control. The most famous of these cases is the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. There are likely many more cases during which the world came close to nuclear war but because of the secrecy that surrounds nuclear weapons we might never know.

If deterrence has not prevented nuclear war so far, what has? While a comprehensive answer to this question will necessarily involve diverse and contingent factors, one essential element in key episodes is just plain luck. This is, again, best illustrated by the case of the Cuban Missile Crisis, where nearly four decades of scholarship attest to the crucial role of luck. The consequences of bad luck, then or later, could make the COVID-19 pandemic seem benign by comparison.

While humanity has luckily survived seventy five years without experiencing nuclear war, can one expect luck to last indefinitely?

Benoît Pelopidas is the founder of the Nuclear Knowledges program at the Center for International Studies at Sciences Po in Paris. M.V. Ramana is the Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security and Director of the Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British Columbia.

Let reason guide our actions in the Atomic Age

Published in the Toronto Star

Normally, Convocation Hall at the University of Toronto is full on graduation day, but for its first virtual ceremony, it was empty. Our community was recognizing a looming danger.

The Enlightenment insisted on reason as the guide to action. That is what all scholars believe. This summer we rejoiced in 15,000 new graduates of this university, each a rational being.

Yesterday you were students; today you are also teachers. Among the least welcome of teachers is COVID-19. Its first lesson is passing: keep away from others. Its second lesson is lasting: steer clear of precipices.

We know just enough about COVID to avoid an uncontrolled pandemic. When we succeed, we should celebrate a triumph of reason. We need such triumphs.

For beyond this precipice lie others — climate change and nuclear war. All the precipices are adjacent, since ours is a small planet.

Fortunately, threats create opportunities. COVID is obliging us to think about a fairer world. We cannot care only for the rich.

Now the danger of climate change has came to the fore. We have been warming the world. If we continue, we invite new pandemics of drought and flood.

To counter this we depend on education. But we have only decades in which to learn. Science says we can do it, and so we must.

The third threat comes from the power of the atom. History is changing before our eyes.

When I was born there were no nuclear weapons. There was, at my future university in Manchester, England, Professor Lord Rutherford, discoverer of the atomic nucleus. He proclaimed that those who spoke of harnessing the power of the atom, were “talking moonshine.”

Then, as a school boy, on August 6, 1945, I learned of the massacre in Hiroshima by a single A-bomb. Three days later a second bomb destroyed Nagasaki.

As a student I edited a newspaper that warned of these dangers. Then in my year of graduation,1949, history changed again — the number of nuclear powers increased from one to two when the Soviet Union tested its A-bomb.

Today there are nine nuclear powers and 14,000 nuclear weapons. Each weapon is capable of destroying a medium-size city. There are more weapons than cities. Nonetheless, vast sums are being spent on making these weapons more lethal.

Why? Does each nation dream of its victory in a nuclear cataclysm? We have reason to fear so.

At best, some are unthinking. We have survived 75 years with only one recourse to nuclear slaughter, so cannot we continue? But it is unmitigated folly to believe that today’s nuclear stand-off can endure for the rest of time.

If you indeed believed that, you would be in a minority. Not one of the possessors of nuclear weapons would agree with you. They are all pursuing higher levels of nuclear readiness. None are content with the existing deterrent — all are arming, none disarming.

Yet there is a reasoned path forward. We only need the courage to take it.

Three years ago, 122 nations at the UN sponsored an agreement, the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty, that would make the possession of nuclear weapons illegal. Before long, I believe that ban will become law.

Of course, it will face opposition from existing powers. Among those opposed will be Canada. But you must change that.

The basis for a nuclear ban already exists. The slaughter of non-combatants is illegal if done by chemical weapons, by biological weapons, by mines, or by cluster bombs. Missing are only nuclear weapons.

Some will say that international agreements make no difference. But if so, why are the nuclear-weapons states so adamant in opposing the ban?

Perhaps, like you, they have studied history. They remember how the ban on slavery in the 19th century became an unstoppable force.

At that time, new thinking had to be spread by petitions carried on horseback. The pro-slavery movement argued that the abolition of slavery would lead to economic collapse. Countries would fall apart. The U.S. did almost that in its terrible Civil War.

Slavery was nonetheless abolished, for “there is a tide in the affairs of men” that is not to be denied.

From time to time, there may be empty halls. But they will soon be filled again so that informed and decent views can be heard.

John Polanyi is a Canadian Pugwash member and Nobel laureate at the University of Toronto who has written widely on the dangers of nuclear war. This article is based on his address to the combined graduating classes of 2020, at U of T’s first virtual convocation.

75 years after Hiroshima, I wonder if the goal of abolishing nuclear weapons is just a dream

The Globe and Mail, 1 August 2020

At 8:15 on the fateful morning of Aug. 6, 1945, as the Second World War was drawing to a close in the Pacific, an American atomic bomb exploded 580 metres above the heart of Hiroshima, Japan. Thermal rays emanating from a gigantic fireball charred every human being in a two-kilometre circle. Old and young, male and female, soldier and civilian – the killing was utterly indiscriminate and, in the end, 140,000 people were dead. Three days later, similar atomic carnage obliterated Nagasaki.

That was the beginning of the nuclear age, 75 years ago.

I was 16 at the time and I remember sitting at the kitchen table, listening to the radio news about “a new kind of bomb.” The destruction was so massive that government officials were predicting the war in the Pacific would be over in a matter of days. My parents sighed with relief: I would be spared having to go to war.

There’s a dwindling number now of hibakusha – the name for Japanese people who survived the attacks – which means there are few left with direct memory of the horror of mass destruction. Soon Hiroshima and Nagasaki will be but history.

But they are not history for me. With 13,400 nuclear weapons possessed today by nine countries, they are a living reality. The United Nations’ top official on disarmament affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu, visited Ottawa recently and said that the risk of use of nuclear weapons deliberately, by accident or through miscalculation, “is higher than it has been in decades.”

The contrast between nuclear realities and aspirations is stunning. Arms control and disarmament treaties, painstakingly constructed over many years, are crumbling. All the nuclear weapons states are modernizing their arsenals. The three major states on the UN Security Council – the United States, Russia and China – are the very ones ratcheting up tensions.

On the other hand, the International Court of Justice has ruled that states have an obligation to conclude negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament. Pope Francis and many other spiritual leaders have condemned the possession of nuclear weapons. A new prohibition treaty, signed by 122 states, outlaws them.

Yet the nuclear states spent US$72.9-billion last year on nuclear weapons (the U.S. spent more than the next eight states combined). Not even the ravages of COVID-19, painfully illustrating the need for huge sums of money to be redirected to health needs, has deterred the nuclear planners. And the political leaders appear impotent against the demands of the military-industrial complex for more weapons of mass destruction.

Seventy-five years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we have to ask ourselves: Is the long-sought goal of the abolition of nuclear weapons but a dream? This is a question that haunts me.

In the early years of my life, I never thought about nuclear weapons, except perhaps around the time of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. But as a young parliamentarian in the 1970s, I visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki and talked to the hibakusha and saw the horrors depicted so vividly in the museums. It hit me forcibly that continued spending on these instruments of death was directly stealing from the poor of the world whose security depends not on weaponry but food, health, housing and education.

I started campaigning for nuclear disarmament in order to expedite the development processes. The UN became a second home for me as I struggled with the political machinations that have contorted security to mean that I am safer if I am able to bomb you out of existence.

I have approached the problem of abolition as a parliamentarian, diplomat and civil society activist. Why can there not be a time-bound program of mutual and verifiable nuclear disarmament? The models exist. Secretaries-general of the UN have repeatedly called for progress. Is not the logic of abolition overpowering?

The answer to the elusive question of abolition lies in the power nuclear weapons give their possessors. Abolition can only be achieved by slowly convincing the powerful that their security will be enhanced as they gradually reduce their stocks to zero.

Obviously, international confidence must be built at every successive step along the way. This is an area where Canada could shine in fostering a new international dialogue. But to do this, we would have to care enough about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The hibakusha have never given up their call for abolition. And neither will I.

Canada must acknowledge our key role in developing the deadly atomic bomb

The Globe and Mail, 1 August 2020. Setsuko Thurlow is a member of the Canadian Pugwash Group.

On Aug. 6 and Aug. 9, the largest bell in the Peace Tower at the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa will ring 75 times to mark the dropping of the two atom bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The arrangement was made by the Green Party’s Elizabeth May and Canada’s Speaker of the House, Liberal MP Anthony Rota. The bell ringing by the Dominion carillonneur Andrea McCrady will be livestreamed by the Peace Tower Carillon website so that it may be heard across Canada and around the world.

As someone who witnessed and experienced the consequences of nuclear war, I very often have brutal images in my mind of the atomic bombing.

As a 13-year-old schoolgirl, I witnessed my city of Hiroshima blinded by the flash, flattened by the hurricane-like blast, incinerated in the heat of 4,000 degrees and contaminated by the radiation of one atomic bomb. A bright summer morning turned to dark twilight with smoke and dust rising in the mushroom cloud, dead and injured covering the ground, begging desperately for water and receiving no medical care. The spreading firestorm and the foul stench of burnt flesh filled the air.

In this Aug. 6, 1945 picture made available by the U.S. Army via the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, a mushroom cloud billows into the sky about one hour after an atomic bomb was detonated above Hiroshima, Japan.

As a hibakusha, a survivor of the atomic bombing, I was honoured to jointly accept the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

To mark the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings, I have written to all the heads of state and governments across the world on behalf of ICAN, asking them to ratify the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This included a special letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

My brief to Mr. Trudeau pointed to the Mackenzie King government takeover of Eldorado Gold Mines Ltd. in 1942 and the nationalization of its uranium mine at Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories by the government in January, 1944. Eldorado’s refinery in Port Hope, Ont., refined all the uranium ore from Canada and the Belgian Congo used by the Manhattan Project to produce the first nuclear weapons for the U.S. Army.

At the direction of C.D. Howe, King’s minister of munitions and supply, the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Co. in Trail, B.C., also signed contracts with the Manhattan Project in November, 1942, to produce heavy water for nuclear reactors to produce plutonium.

In August of 1943, King hosted president Franklin D. Roosevelt and British prime minister Winston Churchill in Quebec City, where they signed the Quebec Agreement to jointly develop the atom bomb. Howe, King’s most powerful minister, represented Canada on a Combined Policy Committee that co-ordinated the joint research by the United States, Britain and Canada on creating atomic weapons. King affirmed in his diary that the Quebec Agreement “made Canada also a party to the development.”

The National Research Council of Canada was heavily involved in the Manhattan Project and in the research by British scientists to develop the atom bomb. In April of 1944, King’s Cabinet War Committee approved expenditures for the National Research Council to design and operate nuclear reactors in Montreal and at Chalk River, Ont., whose discoveries about the production of plutonium would be shared with those involved in the Manhattan Project.

Yet Canada’s extensive role in the Manhattan Project and the development of the atom bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been completely wiped from the collective Canadian consciousness and memory.

The Canadian government has never publicly acknowledged its participation in the Manhattan Project after gloating about it when the bombs were first dropped in 1945. There is little published about Canada’s contribution in the creation of atomic weapons and the subject is not taught in schools. Canadians of all ages believe Canada had nothing to do with the American atom bomb.

In my appeal to Mr. Trudeau, I asked that the government acknowledge Canada’s participation in the Manhattan Project and that the Prime Minister issue a statement of regret for the deaths and immense suffering inflicted on the inhabitants of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I am praying that the bell ringing in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill will occur at the same time that Mr. Trudeau issues a public expression of regret for Canada’s role and announces that Canada will ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

It would be terribly ironic to have an acknowledgement of the bombings of the two cities from the Peace Tower if inside the Parliament buildings the Prime Minister refused to acknowledge Canada’s role.

By the end of 1945, more than 140,000 people had perished in the nuclear strike against Hiroshima. Another 70,000 died in the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.

When Mr. Trudeau hears the bell in the Peace Tower strike 75 times on Aug. 6 and 9, I hope he will not wonder why. As John Donne wrote in his famous poem, “Any man’s death diminishes me . . . never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”

Russell-Einstein Manifesto: 65 years later

“We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest.”

These are the moving words with which Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell and nine other distinguished scientists and intellectuals introduced the famous resolution which became known as the Russell-Einstein Manifesto on July 9, 1955.

Exactly 65 years later, their message is as relevant today as it was when it was issued. The scourge of weapons of mass destruction and war still threaten us; but the crises confronting humanity have multiplied exponentially in number, intensity, complexity and impact on human security. Infectious diseases, hunger and poverty, unemployment and inequality, financial instability and economic uncertainty, the retreat from democracy, the reversion to competitive nationalism, and the overarching threat of climate change loom larger than ever. They are magnified by the vacuum in global leadership and a loss of trust and confidence in national and international institutions.

The sense of urgency, appeal to human conscience and universal values that reverberate through their Manifesto powerfully echo the needs of our time. The challenges we confront may be greater, but so too are our collective knowledge and capacity for effective global response. The voice of science, the aspirations of youth, the just demand for human rights, the sanity of human wisdom and the resourcefulness of human creativity compel us to call with renewed resolve for unprecedented steps to replace the failed doctrines and policies that have brought the world to its present state.

The Russell-Einstein Manifesto led directly to the establishment of Pugwash Conferences in 1957 and the founding of the World Academy of Art and Science in 1960. It has also inspired the work of a great many institutions dedicated to a better common future for all.

On the eve of July 9th, we invite all like-minded organizations to reflect on the relevance of the Manifesto to the world today and seize the opportunity to convert the looming global threats confronting humanity into a compelling force for collective action. We call on nations, organizations and individuals everywhere in all fields to forge an inclusive alliance and movement for global peace and human security. Please join us and spread the word.

Russell Einstein Manifesto

Issued in London, 9 July 1955

In the tragic situation which confronts humanity, 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, and to discuss a resolution in the spirit of the appended draft.

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; and, overshadowing all minor conflicts, the titanic struggle between Communism and anti-Communism.

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.

We shall try to say no single word which should appeal to one group rather than to another. All, equally, are in peril, and, if the peril is understood, there is hope that they may collectively avert it.

We have to learn to think in a new way. We have to learn to ask ourselves, not what steps can be taken to give military victory to whatever group we prefer, for there no longer are such steps; the question we have to ask ourselves is: what steps can be taken to prevent a military contest of which the issue must be disastrous to all parties?

The general public, and even many men in positions of authority, have not realized what would be involved in a war with nuclear bombs. The general public still thinks in terms of the obliteration of cities. It is understood that the new bombs are more powerful than the old, and that, while one A-bomb could obliterate Hiroshima, one H-bomb could obliterate the largest cities, such as London, New York, and Moscow.

No doubt in an H-bomb war great cities would be obliterated. But this is one of the minor disasters that would have to be faced. If everybody in London, New York, and Moscow were exterminated, the world might, in the course of a few centuries, recover from the blow. But we now know, especially since the Bikini test, that nuclear bombs can gradually spread destruction over a very much wider area than had been supposed.

It is stated on very good authority that a bomb can now be manufactured which will be 2,500 times as powerful as that which destroyed Hiroshima. Such a bomb, if exploded near the ground or under water, sends radio-active particles into the upper air. They sink gradually and reach the surface of the earth in the form of a deadly dust or rain. It was this dust which infected the Japanese fishermen and their catch of fish.

No one knows how widely such lethal radio- active particles might be diffused, but the best authorities are unanimous in saying that a war with H-bombs might possibly put an end to the human race. It is feared that if many H-bombs are used there will be universal death, sudden only for a minority, but for the majority a slow torture of disease and disintegration.

Many warnings have been uttered by eminent men of science and by authorities in military strategy. None of them will say that the worst results are certain. What they do say is that these results are possible, and no one can be sure that they will not be realized. We have not yet found that the views of experts on this question depend in any degree upon their politics or prejudices. They depend only, so far as our researches have revealed, upon the extent of the particular expert’s knowledge. We have found that the men who know most are the most gloomy.

Here, then, is the problem which we present to you, stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war? People will not face this alternative because it is so difficult to abolish war.

The abolition of war will demand distasteful limitations of national sovereignty. But what perhaps impedes understanding of the situation more than anything else is that the term “mankind” feels vague and abstract. People scarcely realize in imagination that the danger is to themselves and their children and their grandchildren, and not only to a dimly apprehended humanity. They can scarcely bring themselves to grasp that they, individually, and those whom they love are in imminent danger of perishing agonizingly. And so they hope that perhaps war may be allowed to continue provided modern weapons are prohibited.

This hope is illusory. Whatever agreements not to use H-bombs had been reached in time of peace, they would no longer be considered binding in time of war, and both sides would set to work to manufacture H-bombs as soon as war broke out, for, if one side manufactured the bombs and the other did not, the side that manufactured them would inevitably be victorious.

Although an agreement to renounce nuclear weapons as part of a general reduction of armaments would not afford an ultimate solution, it would serve certain important purposes. First: any agreement between East and West is to the good in so far as it tends to diminish tension. Second: the abolition of thermo-nuclear weapons, if each side believed that the other had carried it out sincerely, would lessen the fear of a sudden attack in the style of Pearl Harbour, which at present keeps both sides in a state of nervous apprehension. We should, therefore, welcome such an agreement though only as a first step.

Most of us are not neutral in feeling, but, as human beings, we have to remember that, if the issues between East and West are to be decided in any manner that can give any possible satisfaction to anybody, whether Communist or anti-Communist, whether Asian or European or American, whether White or Black, then these issues must not be decided by war. We should wish this to be understood, both in the East and in the West.

There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge, and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal, as human beings, to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death.


We invite this Congress, and through it the scientists of the world and the general public, to subscribe to the following resolution:

“In view of the fact that in any future world war nuclear weapons will certainly be employed, and that such weapons threaten the continued existence of mankind, we urge the Governments of the world to realize, and to acknowledge publicly, that their purpose cannot be furthered by a world war, and we urge them, consequently, to find peaceful means for the settlement of all matters of dispute between them.”

Max Born | Perry W. Bridgman | Albert Einstein | Leopold Infeld | Frederic Joliot-Curie | Herman J. Muller | Linus Pauling | Cecil F. Powell | Joseph Rotblat | Bertrand Russell | Hideki Yukawa