On the 31st August 2005, Nobel Peace Prize winner and last surviving signatory of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, Prof. Sir Joseph Rotblat died at the age of 96.
The Nobel Peace Prize was jointly awarded to Sir Joseph and Pugwash in 1995 for their efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics through the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. The conferences mainly work as a direct extension of the views expressed in the Russell-Einstein Manifesto – a document signed by those scientists who were instrumental in developing the first nuclear weapons back in the 1940’s, as part of the Manhattan Project.
Sir Joseph (uniquely) resigned from the Manhattan project in 1944, just before the end of world war two and refused to work further on the development of “The Bomb” when it became clear that Germany would not be in a position to develop nuclear weapons to use against the allies. The development of the weapon continued and it was finally used with devastating effect on Japan, to bring an end to the war. After witnessing its full destructive power Sir Joseph decided to dedicate his life to nuclear disarmament, and to using technology to benefit humankind through nuclear medicine. In 1955, he signed the Russell-Einstein Manifesto against the proliferation of nuclear arms along with other eminent scientists of the time such as Albert Einstein, Max Born and Linus Pauling. In 1957, Sir Joseph organised the first international scientific conference on nuclear weapons at Pugwash, Nova Scotia, thereby founding an organisation whose development and aims would become his major commitment for the rest of his life.
The work of Pugwash has been in guiding political views on the proliferation of nuclear weapons and scientific responsibility in over 50 countries around the world. The Pugwash Conferences are based on the recognition that scientists have responsibility for their inventions. Pugwash has underlined the catastrophic consequences of the development and use of new weapons and has brought together scientists and decision-makers in order to collaborate across political divides on constructive proposals for reducing the nuclear threat.
Throughout his career, Sir Joseph`s message was firm: "either the world will eliminate nuclear weapons, or the weapons will eliminate us. The continued presence of such weapons in the world, and their possible acquisition by terrorist groups, means one thing: as long as such weapons exist, they can and probably will be used at some point. Extreme situations such as WW2 may arise again, but what guarantee is there that nuclear weapons will not be used again? In the short term, the risk can be lessened by reducing nuclear stockpiles. But the longer-term aim must be to destroy all such weapons."