Peace, prose and alchemy: Change the world and you'll win the prize

September 29, 2000

Small proze for man, a giant leap for mankind. Laureates reveal what winning meant to them

Joseph Rotblat won the Nobel peace prize in 1995 in association with the Pugwash Conferences on science and world affairs, which bring together influential scholars and public figures concerned with reducing the danger of armed conflict and seeking cooperative solutions to global problems. The award was for "their efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics and in the longer run to eliminate such arms".

"The award was a big surprise. I didn't expect it, particularly that year, because in England everyone knew who was going to get the prize - John Major, for trying to bring peace to Northern Ireland," Rotblat says.

"After the initial shock, I was glad of the recognition for the work that I had been doing with Pugwash over the years. We had tried to bring together scientists from both sides of the Iron Curtain to see how we could influence governments to stop the arms race. But the next stage was responsibility. I've never stopped working since -all the requests to come and talk, to write papers, to attend conferences and so on. It still hasn't stopped.

"We are still concerned with problems where science could either bring benefits - which most of the time it does - or be a threat to civilisation. At our last conference a few weeks ago, the main topic was the quest to eliminate the causes of war. One of the causes is the misuse of science. Science has an enormous effect on most walks of life. I feel it is the duty of scientists to be responsible for the consequences of pure science that can quickly result in applied science that has an effect on the lives of ordinary people. Each of us, as well as being a scientist, is also a citizen and I think it is important we bear this in mind."

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