|In the tragic situation which confronts
humanity, we feel that scientists should assemble in conference to
appraise the perils that have arisen as a result of the development
of weapons of mass destruction, and to discuss a resolution in the
spirit of the appended draft.
We are speaking on
this occasion, not as members of this or that nation, continent, or
creed, but as human beings, members of the species Man, whose continued
existence is in doubt. The world is full of conflicts; and, overshadowing
all minor conflicts, the titanic struggle between Communism and anti-
Almost everybody who is politically conscious has strong feelings about
one or more of these issues; but we want you, if you can, to set aside
such feelings and consider yourselves only as members of a biological
species which has had a remarkable history, and whose disappearance
none of us can desire.
We shall try to say no single word which should appeal to one group
rather than to another. All, equally, are in peril, and, if the peril
is understood, there is hope that they may collectively avert it.
We have to learn to think in a new way. We have to learn to ask ourselves,
not what steps can be taken to give military victory to whatever group
we prefer, for there no longer are such steps; the question we have
to ask ourselves is: what steps can be taken to prevent a military contest
of which the issue must be disastrous to all parties?
The general public, and even many men in positions of authority, have
not realized what would be involved in a war with nuclear bombs. The
general public still thinks in terms of the obliteration of cities.
It is understood that the new bombs are more powerful than the old,
and that, while one A-bomb could obliterate Hiroshima, one H-bomb could
obliterate the largest cities, such as London, New York, and Moscow.
No doubt in an H-bomb
war great cities would be obliterated. But this is one of the minor
disasters that would have to be faced. If everybody in London, New York,
and Moscow were exterminated, the world might, in the course of a few
centuries, recover from the blow. But we now know, especially since
the Bikini test, that nuclear bombs can gradually spread destruction
over a very much wider area than had been supposed.
It is stated on very good authority that a bomb can now be manufactured
which will be 2,500 times as powerful as that which destroyed Hiroshima.
Such a bomb, if exploded near the ground or under water, sends radio-active
particles into the upper air. They sink gradually and reach the surface
of the earth in the form of a deadly dust or rain. It was this dust
which infected the Japanese fishermen and their catch of fish.
No one knows how widely such lethal radioactive particles might be diffused,
but the best authorities are unanimous in saying that a war with H-bombs
might possibly put an end to the human race. It is feared that if many
H-bombs are used there will be universal death, sudden only for a minority,
but for the majority a slow torture of disease and disintegration.
Many warnings have been uttered by eminent men of science and by authorities
in military strategy. None of them will say that the worst results are
certain. What they do say is that these results are possible, and no
one can be sure that they will not be realized. We have not yet found
that the views of experts on this question depend in any degree upon
their politics or prejudices. They depend only, so far as our researches
have revealed, upon the extent of the particular expert's knowledge.
We have found that the men who know most are the most gloomy.
Here, then, is the problem which we present to you, stark and dreadful
and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind
renounce war? People will not face this alternative because it is so
difficult to abolish war.
The abolition of war will demand distasteful limitations of national
sovereignty. But what perhaps impedes understanding of the situation
more than anything else is that the term "mankind" feels vague and abstract.
People scarcely realize in imagination that the danger is to themselves
and their children and their grandchildren, and not only to a dimly
apprehended humanity. They can scarcely bring themselves to grasp that
they, individually, and those whom they love are in imminent danger
of perishing agonizingly. And so they hope that perhaps war may be allowed
to continue provided modern weapons are prohibited.
This hope is illusory. Whatever agreements not to use H-bombs had
been reached in time of peace, they would no longer be considered binding
in time of war, and both sides would set to work to manufacture H-bombs
as soon as war broke out, for, if one side manufactured the bombs and
the other did not, the side that manufactured them would inevitably
Although an agreement to renounce nuclear weapons as part of a general
reduction of armaments would not afford an ultimate solution, it would
serve certain important purposes. First: any agreement between East
and West is to the good in so far as it tends to diminish tension. Second:
the abolition of thermo-nuclear weapons, if each side believed that
the other had carried it out sincerely, would lessen the fear of a sudden
attack in the style of Pearl Harbour, which at present keeps both sides
in a state of nervous apprehension. We should, therefore, welcome such
an agreement though only as a first step. Most of us are not neutral
in feeling, but, as human beings, we have to remember that, if the issues
between East and West are to be decided in any manner that can give
any possible satisfaction to anybody, whether Communist or anti-Communist,
whether Asian or European or American, whether White or Black, then
these issues must not be decided by war. We should wish this to be understood,
both in the East andin the West. There lies before us, if we choose,
continual progress in happiness, knowledge, and wisdom. Shall we, instead,
choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal, as human
beings, to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest.
If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot,
there lies before you the risk of universal death.
We invite this Congress, and through it the scientists of the world
and the general public, to subscribe to the following resolution:
"In view of the fact that in any future world war nuclear weapons will
certainly be employed, and that such weapons threaten the continued
existence of mankind, we urge the Governments of the world to realize,
and to acknowledge publicly, that their purpose cannot be furthered
by a world war, and we urge them, consequently, to find peaceful means
for the settlement of all matters of dispute between them."
Max Born, Perry W. Bridgman, Albert
Einstein, Leopold Infeld, Frederic Joliot-Curie,
Herman J. Muller, Linus Pauling, Cecil
F. Powell, Joseph Rotblat, Bertrand Russell,