The Movement for the Abolition of War

Sir Joseph Rotblat

Sir Joseph Rotblat

Founder of the Movement for the Abolition of War

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Sir Joseph Rotblat, the founder and principal motivator of the Pugwash organisation, died on August 31st, 2005, aged 96. Sir Joseph had participated in the Manhattan project because he believed that the only way to stop the Nazis using an atomic bomb was for the allies to own one of their own and threaten retaliation. He resigned from the project in 1944 as a matter of conscience, as soon as it became apparent that Germany was not going to be able to make a bomb, and was horrified when he learned that a bomb had been used at Hiroshima. He devoted the rest of his life to radiation medicine and to the abolition of nuclear weapons and of war itself.

Professor Rotblat was a signatory of the Russell/Einstein Manifesto (1955), telling the world to “Remember your humanity”. The Pugwash organisation grew out of a meeting in Pugwash, Nova Scotia in 1957, involving scientists from both sides of the Iron Curtain.

There has been at least one meeting, together with several workshops on specialist topics, every year since. The individuals who attend Pugwash meetings come as individuals, not as representatives of Governments or organisations. Pugwash’s reputation is based on impeccable science and the absence of political bias: although little known to the public, it came to be trusted by Governments, and was responsible for the groundwork behind a number of important treaties, including the Partial Test-Ban Treaty (1963). the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (1968), the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and both the Biological and Chemical Weapons Conventions (1972, 1993). Under Sir Joseph’s guidance, it was able to act as mediator in a number of disputes or wars, including the USA/Vietnam war. President Gorbachev attributed the success of his disarmament initiatives in part to Pugwash.

It was the work and campaigning of Sir Joseph Rotblat to abolish nuclear weapons and war generally, which inspired the creation of the Movement for the Abolition of War. He then became our first President.

In 2002, Professor Rotblat gave a talk given at the Imperial War Museum on Remembrance Sunday. You can download and read it here.