Nobel Peace Laureates

“Remember your humanity. Take action. Remember, humanity is actually keeping in your mind all the time that you have something to do with the rest of society… It’s a diabolical concept, that in order to survive we have to kill.”
- Sir Joseph Rotblat
Joseph Rotblat was born on November 4, 1908, in Warsaw, Poland. He was from a Jewish family. He had two brothers and one sister. At that time, Poland was considered part of the Russian Empire. The Rotblat family owned many horses that they kept at their second home in the countryside. But during World War I, his family lost everything.

As a teenager, Joseph had to work all day so every night he stayed up late teaching himself what he would have learned in high school. Eventually he was able to go to Warsaw’s Free University and became a scientist. When Joseph was 31 years old, he went to England to work in a world-renowned Physics laboratory that had a new machine that could split atoms. Joseph and the other scientists discovered that if they could split atoms, a huge amount of energy would be released – energy that could be used to provide electricity for a whole city – or that could be used to make a very dangerous explosion.

That same year, Germany invaded Poland and World War II began. Joseph Rotblat and the other scientists were worried that Hitler and his Nazi army might also discover how to spit the atom and create the “atomic bomb.” After Joseph’s wife was killed by the Nazi army, Joseph went to the United States to work on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, New Mexico, which developed the first atomic bomb. But he quit the project and returned to Britain after learning that Nazi Germany had not figured out how to build the bomb.

After the war Rotblat shifted the focus of his research to medical physics. In 1950 he became a professor of physics at St. Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College at the University of London and worked to convince the world of the negative consequences of the atomic bomb and nuclear radiation.

In 1955 Rotblat and a handful of prominent scientists, including Albert Einstein, signed a manifesto that criticized the proliferation of nuclear arms. The manifesto led to the founding of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, named for the native village in Nova Scotia, Canada. The conferences have gathered scientists from many countries and are held regularly at various sites throughout the world. Rotblat published several works on the Pugwash movement, nuclear physics, and world peace.

In 1995 Rotblat and his organization were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace for their long-standing promotion of nuclear disarmament. He was knighted by the Queen of England in 1998 and died August 31, 2005 in London, England.