Rotblat, Sir Joseph

▪ 2006

      Polish-born British physicist (b. Nov. 4, 1908, Warsaw, Pol., Russian Empire [now in Poland]—d. Aug. 31, 2005, London, Eng.), served as founding secretary-general (1957–73) and later as president (1988–97) of the Pugwash (N.S.) Conferences on Science and World Affairs, at which influential scientists and other key figures from around the world could meet informally to discuss and promote nuclear disarmament and arms control. The conferences, which first met in 1957, at the height of the Cold War, were credited with laying the groundwork for international arms-control agreements, and in 1995 Rotblat and the Pugwash Conferences were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. Rotblat obtained a Doctor of Physics degree from the University of Warsaw in 1938. The next year he went to England, where he conducted research on neutrons at the University of Liverpool. During World War II he participated in the Manhattan Project to develop an atomic bomb, but he quit in 1944 after he learned that Nazi Germany was no longer building its own atomic bomb. As a physics professor at the University of London and a medical physicist at the university's St. Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College (1950–76), he studied the biological effects of nuclear radiation and helped to make public the dangers of fallout from the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. Rotblat became a British citizen in 1946 and was knighted in 1998.

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▪ British physicist and philanthropist
born November 4, 1908, Warsaw, Poland, Russian Empire [now in Poland]
died August 31, 2005, London, England

      Polish-born British physicist who became a leading critic of nuclear weaponry. He was a founding member (1957), secretary-general (1957–73), and president (1988–97) of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs (Pugwash Conferences), a London-based worldwide organization of scholars that seeks solutions to problems of national development and international security. In 1995 Rotblat and his organization were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace for their long-standing promotion of nuclear disarmament, most notably by sponsoring discussions between scientists from the United States and the Soviet Union.

      Rotblat was educated in Warsaw at the Free University of Poland (M.A., 1932) and at the University of Warsaw (Ph.D., 1938). In 1939 he won a fellowship to the University of Liverpool, England, with which he was associated until 1949. In 1944 he moved to the United States to work on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, New Mexico, which developed the first atomic bombs, but he quit the project and returned to Britain that same year after learning that Nazi Germany would not build a competing atomic 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.

      In 1955 Rotblat was among a handful of prominent scientists, including Albert Einstein, who signed a manifesto written by Bertrand Russell (Russell, Bertrand) that criticized the proliferation of nuclear arms. The manifesto led to the founding of the Pugwash Conferences, named for the native village in Nova Scotia, Canada, of the industrialist and philanthropist Cyrus Eaton (Eaton, Cyrus S.), where they were inaugurated in 1957. 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. He was knighted in 1998.

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Universalium. 2010.

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