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  You are in: Home > Biography > Joseph Roblat  

Joseph Rotblat
A Man of Conscience in the Nuclear Age

Martin Underwood

Martin Underwood read physics and philosophy and gained a D.Phil. from Oxford University in nuclear physics. He worked on the linear accelerator at St. Bartholomew's Medical College in 1976/77, under Joseph Rotblat. He joined BP Research, becoming Leader of both Nuclear Geophysics and Operational Physics Research Projects before following a commercial career in BP Exploration. He then became the MD of a Technology Park in Coventry. He is author of some 20 papers in various scientific journals and papers recently on Joseph Rotblat.


Professor Sir Joseph Rotblat was a distinguished scientist who made a significant contribution to nuclear physics, worked on the development of the atomic bomb (he was the only person to leave the Manhattan Project), and was suspected of being a Soviet spy. After Hiroshima and Nagasaki he became a peace campaigner and dedicated himself to the medical uses of nuclear physics and radiation.He took up the post of Professor of Physics (as applied to medicine) at St. Bartholomew's Medical College and made major contributions to this field, becoming one of the world's leading researchers into the biological effects of radiation.

His life from the early 1950s until his death in August 2005 was devoted to the abolition of nuclear weapons and the promotion of world peace. His work ranked with that of Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell. He helped found The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, and together with Pugwash he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995. Rotblat promoted dialogue between Soviet and Western scientists during the Cold War, initiated discussions to end the Vietnam War, and was instrumental in bringing about a partial nuclear weapons test-ban treaty.

Martin Underwood worked with Sir Joseph, and takes the opportunity to describe his personal background and circumstances, summarize his life, achievements and contribution to mankind, and outline his views on the moral responsibilities of the scientist. This book will appeal to all those interested in the development of nuclear weapons, the growth of the anti-nuclear movement, and the peaceful uses of radioactivity.

Preface and Acknowledgements

1 Poland: Early Life and Influences, 1908–1939
2 Liverpool University, 1939–1943
3 The Manhattan Project, 1944–1943
4 Under Suspicion
5 Return to Liverpool, 1945–1950
6 St Bartholomew’s Medical College, 1950–1976
7 Politics: Rotblat’s Growth into a Public Figure
8 The Pugwash Conferences
9 World Government
10 Fallout from Pugwash and Post-Retirement Activities
11 Thoughts on a Creative Life

Appendices 1–7
1 ‘Leaving the Bomb’, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, August 1985. Reproduced with permission.
2 The Russell–Einstein Manifesto. This was originally a Press Release.
3 Statement from the First Pugwash Conference, Pugwash, July 7–10, 1957. Reproduced by permission of the US Pugwash Group.
4 Statement from the Third Pugwash Conference, Vienna, September 14–20, 1958. Reproduced by permission of the US Pugwash Group.
5 ‘Time to Rethink the Idea of World Government’. This was a paper given by Rotblat at the 42nd Pugwash Conference, Berlin, 1992. Reproduced by permission of the US Pugwash Group.
6 ‘Remember Your Humanity’. This is his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Oslo, 1995. © 1995 The Nobel Foundation. Reproduced with permission.
7 ‘The Nuclear Issue: Pugwash and the Bush Policies’. The 53rd Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs: Advancing Human Security – The Role of Technology and Politics. Reproduced by permission of the US Pugwash Group.


“Martin Underwood has written a fine and crucial narrative of one of the great heroes of the twentieth century. The only scientist to resign his Manhattan Project post on learning that Germany would not make an atom bomb, Rotblat fulfilled his ideal that a scientist is first and foremost a human being. Rotblat's subsequent life-long campaign to eliminate nuclear weapons, and ultimately to banish war, is a story of courage and vision which Underwood writes with passion and urgency.” John Cornwell

“This work is the biography of Joseph Rotblat, who escaped the Nazis in Poland and worked on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos but then labored against and led international activities against nuclear weapons. The first 32 pages of this slim work covers Rotblat’s scientific career… The next 53 pages discuss Rotblat as a public figure and his work in founding and organizing the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. The final 65 pages are appendixes that contain Pugwash Conference statements and Rotblat’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 1995. Author Underwood is a physicist who worked under Rotblat from 1976 to 1977 at St. Bartholomew’s Medical College in London. The major audience … will be those interested in the development of the antinuclear movement and activities and the origin of the Pugwash Conferences.” Choice

“Professor Sir Joseph Rotblat was a scientist and peace activist of the post-WWII period. After resigning from the Manhattan Project due to reasons of conscience, he became one of the world’s leading researchers into the biological effects of radiation. He helped found The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995. Underwood, who worked under Rotblat at St. Bartholomew’s Medical College in the 1970s, here describes Rotblat’s personal background, details his scientific achievements and his efforts to abolish nuclear weapons, and summarizes his views on the moral responsibilities of the scientist. About 60 pages of appendices collect articles and press releases, and conference statements, papers, and speeches given by Rotblat, including his Nobel Prize acceptance speech. Underwood is a researcher for BP.” SciTech Book News

“Martin Underwood worked with Joseph Rotblat in 1976 and this clearly made a lasting impression which has led him to
publish short articles about the impact of his life. Rotblat held the chair of Medical Physics at St Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical School from 1950 to 1976. He has also made a significant contribution as its second editor to Physics in Medicine and Biology, establishing it as an important international journal. He died in 2005 at the age of 96. This short biography looks particularly at the political impact of Sir Joseph’s life and especially at his involvement with the antinuclear movement. There are some particularly interesting items in the many Appendices, which form about a third of the book, including proceedings of several of the Pugwash conferences, of which Sir Joseph was a founding member. Of particular interest are the articles that Rotblat himself wrote describing his reasons for leaving the Manhattan Project and his acceptance speech on receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995. … Sir Joseph’s relationship with the nuclear bomb formed a very significant part of his personality and this book makes an interesting contribution on this aspect of his life and even includes his views on the Iraq war.” Philip Mayles, Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology NHS Foundation Trus, in Scope


Publication Details

Paperback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
172 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Release Date:
July 2009
  Illustrated:   No
Paperback Price:
£18.95 / $39.95

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