TITLE: Building the Bomb, Fearing Its Use: Nuclear Scientists, Social Responsibility and Arms Control, 1946-1996
EVENT DATE: 2009/05/27
FORMAT: Video + Captions
RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes
TRANSCRIPT: View Transcript (link will open in a new window)
The John W. Kluge Center held a panel discussion on "Building the Bomb, Fearing Its Use: Nuclear Scientists, Social Responsibility and Arms Control, 1946-1996." Speakers were Mary Palevsky, Black Mountain Institute fellow at the Kluge Center, along with Hugh Gusterson, William Lanouette and Martin J. Sherwin. After the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II, statesmen and scientists confronted the unprecedented destructive power of nuclear weapons, according to Palevsky. Early postwar efforts for international control of atomic energy failed, and by the mid-1950s both American and Soviet scientists had invented the hydrogen bomb, a weapon of greater destructive potential than the atomic bomb. Yet arms-control efforts were ongoing even during the Cold War's darkest days. Within a year of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty, prohibiting nuclear tests in the atmosphere, underwater and in outer space.
International treaty negotiations directly affected the daily lives of thousands of American scientists, engineers and support personnel who designed, built and conducted the tests of new weapon designs. Some of the questions that these scientists and statesmen encountered still exist today, and those questions are the basis for the panel discussion.