Peace Prize Honors Pugwash; Several from MIT AffiliatedBy Shang-Lin Chuang
The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, which include at least six people affiliated with MIT, was awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.
Joseph Rotblat, one of the founders of Pugwash, shared the million-dollar prize with the organization. Pugwash, named after the town in Nova Scotia where the first conference was held in 1957, grew out of a manifesto drafted in 1955 by Albert Einstein and British philosopher Bertrand Russell.
The Russell-Einstein Manifesto called upon the scientists of the world to consider the social and ethical implications of their work.
The Nobel Committee cited the Conferences' "efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics and in the longer run to eliminate such arms."
The Conferences are based on the recognition of the responsibility of scientists for their inventions. They have underlined the catastrophic consequences of the use of the new weapons and brought together scientists and decision-makers to collaborate across political divides on constructive proposals for reducing the nuclear threat.
MIT active in Pugwash
"Very many members of faculty are active with Pugwash," said Kosta Tsipis, director of the program in science and technology for international security, a Pugwash member since 1968.
"I am very happy that Dr. Rotblat and Pugwash received the award. It was very well deserved," Tsipis said. "Pugwash has been trying since 1957 to avoid global and nuclear war."
Jerome B. Wiesner, the 13th president of the Institute, was also a member of Pugwash. Wiesner helped push through an agreement with Russia to ban nuclear tests in the atmosphere in the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963, through informal discussions in Pugwash. Wiesner died last fall.
Another Pugwash member, Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Jack Ruina, is considered responsible for the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty.
Professor Emeritus of Physics Bernard T. Feld was Pugwash secretary general from 1970 to 1975. Feld was a very important member and a very early participant of the movement, Tsipis said.
Professor of Political Science George W. Rathjens is a member involved in technology and weapons aspects of the Conferences.
John P. Holdren '65, at the the University at California, Berkeley, is the co-chairman of the U.S. Pugwash Committee. Holdren is now working at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
Pugwash consists of a group of scientists who meet to discuss global problems that have technical and scientific components, Tsipis said. The first discussed problem was the proliferation of nuclear weapon and the possibility of nuclear war.
Pugwash was instrumental in the attempt to end the war in Vietnam, to bring Arabs and Jews together, the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, and in the banning of intermediary range nuclear weapons in Europe, formally signed by the Warsaw Pact in 1986.
"Most of these topics are informally discussed by scientists," Tsipis said. "These scientists then go back to their government to try to convince them to ban nuclear agreements talked about in the Conferences."
"It is a good thing to have scientists worry about global and social issues," Tsipis said.
Student also influential
MIT has a chapter of the student affiliate of Pugwash, Student Pugwash USA. SPUSAis "an integral part of Pugwash," Tsipis said. Students are considered equivalent members as adults and help the organization a great deal, he said.
"Student Pugwash is a discussion group that is open to anyone with any opinion that has something to do with wcience and technology," said President Nora Chen '97.
SPUSA was started to include students and give them a head start in involvement in the parent organization, after which it is modeled.
TheMIT chapter has been involved with disarmament and apartheid issues over the past decade. Most recently, it sponsored the Human Genome Project Conference held at the Institute last November.