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Tech Throwback: The 1955 Russell-Einstein Manifesto That Saved The World

In London on 9th July 1955, Bertrand Russell issued the Russell-Einstein Manifesto in the middle of the Cold War. See why this manifesto is significant and what impact it has on the world today.


To get a better picture of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, it is important to understand what world events led to the year 1955. The Cold War had been ongoing at the time and the tension between the United States (and allies) and the Soviet Union was at a tipping point.


Just 10 years before the manifesto was signed, on 6th August 1945, the US had dropped Little Boy (an atomic bomb) on Hiroshima. It also dropped another atomic bomb code-named, Fat Man on Nagasaki on 9th August 1945.


These were the only two atomic bombs ever used in warfare. However, by that time, many other nations were also in the nuclear arms race. The race and achievements led to the afore-mentioned Cold War. It became apparent that both the US and the Soviet Union, along with allies, had enough weapons to destroy themselves totally. This is what the mutually assured destruction (MAD) phrase means.


Thus, a world-renowned scientist, Bertrand Russell knew that something must be done. In a statement, Russell had said, “Mankind are faced with a clear-cut alternative: either we shall all perish, or we shall have to acquire some slight degree of common sense.”

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He worked with Joseph Rotblat, the only scientist who left the Manhattan Project (that produced the Little Boy and Fat Man bombs) due to moral reasons. The duo had the backing of Albert Einstein who died nine days after signing the manifesto in 18th April 1955. They came up with the Russell-Einstein Manifesto and got 11 scientists to sign it.


Their names are: Max Born, Percy W. Bidgman, Albert Einstein, Leopold Infeld, Frederic Joliot-Curie, Hermann J. Muller, Linus Pauling, Cecil F. Powell, Joseph Rotblat, Bertrand Russell and Hideki Yukawa.


The 11 signatories of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto were not ordinary scientists. They were all Nobel Laureates (except Leopold Infeld). Also, they all had some sort of contribution to the development of atomic and nuclear weapons.


The Russell-Einstein Manifesto led to what is now known as the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. This conference started in 1957 and it hosts scholars and public figures from all over the world who work together toward reducing the dangers of armed conflict worldwide.


The first conference had scientists from the US, the UK, Soviet Union, Japan, Canada and Australia. That the world is still not a massive wasteland of radioactive waste is likely because of the 1955 manifesto.


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Onwuasoanya Obinna

A reader of books and stringer of words. Passionate about Science and Tech. When not writing or reading he is surfing the web and Tweeting.

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