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Sir Joseph Rotblat

Sir Joseph Rotblat

1995 Nobel Peace Prize Winner

"Remember your humanity. It is a diabolical concept that in order to survive we believe we have to kill.”

~ Sir Joseph Rotblat

Joseph Rotblat was born to a Jewish family in 1908 in Warsaw, Poland. His family lost everything during World War l and suffered extreme poverty. Eventually he was able to attend Warsaw’s Free University where he studied physics. When he was 31 years old, he went to England to work in a world-renowned physics laboratory that had developed a new machine that could split atoms. Rotblat 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 ll began. There was growing concern in the scientific community that Hitler and the Nazis would develop an atomic bomb. Rotblat’s wife was unable to travel with him to England because she was unwell at the time and tragically before she could join him war had broken out and, despite all his efforts to get her out, he learned in 1945 that she had died in a concentration camp in Poland.

Rotblat went to the United States to work on the Manhattan Project, a large-scale effort dedicated to developing the first atomic bomb. When intelligence came back that Nazi Germany was not building an atomic bomb Rotblat resigned from the
project on ethical grounds, the only scientist to do so, and returned to Britain. He was horrified when he learned of the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan, and soon after shifted the focus of his research to medical physics. In 1950 he became the Professor of Physics at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical College at the University of London using his knowledge of radiation to pursue research into cancer treatment.

In 1955, Bertrand Russell, Rotblat and other prominent scientists, such as Albert Einstein, signed the Russell/Einstein Manifesto calling the attention of the world to the dangers of nuclear weapons. The manifesto led to the founding of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs to promote nuclear disarmament. Rotblat was its leading spirit and in 1995, on the fiftieth anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1998 he was knighted by the Queen of England. He died on 31 August, 2005 in London. Rotblat became a member of PeaceJam in 2003.”

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