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Sir Joseph Rotblat (1908-2005)

Scientist, peace activist and humanist

Humanists UK was sad to hear of the death of Patron of Humanism, Nobel Peace Prize winner and “conscience of science”, Sir Joseph Rotblat FRS CBE.

Joseph Rotblat was a distinguished scientist, who, as an exile from Poland during the second world war, played a part in the development of the Allies’ nuclear bomb. But once it became clear that Germany did not have nuclear capacity, his doubts about the morality of the project increased, and he became a tireless campaigner for nuclear disarmament, peace, and scientific responsibility. Until 1973, he was the secretary-general of the Pugwash organisation, which he described as promoting “an awareness of the social and moral duty of scientists to help prevent and overcome actual and potentially harmful effects of scientific and technological innovations”. He organised the first of many Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs in 1957, and became its president in 1988.   His essay“Science and Humanity in the Twenty-First Century” expresses the very humanist idea that “knowledge brings responsibility”. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995, and as late as November 2004 was speaking of his life-long commitment to peace at an anti-war demonstration in Trafalgar Square.

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