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The First Pugwash Conference

Caxton Hall, 9th July 1955
Proclamation of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto
at a Press Conference in Caxton Hall, London.
- 9th July 1955 -

THE Russell-Einstein Manifesto was issued on 9th July 1955 in London at a Press Conference held in Caxton Hall.

A few days after the publication of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto Mr. Cyrus Eaton sent a letter to Bertrand Russell offering to finance the Conference of scientists which was called for in the Manifesto, and suggesting that it be held in Pugwash, Nova Scotia. This offer was not taken up because at that time it was planned to hold the Conference in India, where Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was very keen on the Conference of scientists and had offered hospitality for it.

It took about a year before the plans for the meeting in New Delhi were formulated. Russell asked the two other British signatories of the Manifesto, Cecil Powell and Joseph Rotblat, to help him in the preparation of the Conference. Eric Burhop, who collaborated with Powell in the World Federation of Scientific Workers, was also involved.

In discussions between these four, a preliminary agenda and a list of invitees, to make a total of about 20 participants, were prepared. It was agreed that the letter should be signed by Russell on behalf of the signatories of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto. The first step, therefore, was for Russell to write to the signatories to obtain their agreement to the draft of the letter of invitation; these letters were dispatched on 6th July 1956.

It took several weeks for the replies to come in. Eventually, out of the nine signatories (apart from Russell) who were alive at that time, seven agreed; the only two to decline were both Americans: Percy Bridgman and Hermann Muller (but the latter subsequently changed his mind, and came to the 1957 Conference in Pugwash).

Letters of invitation as agreed by the signatories were sent on 29 August to 27 scientists; a few weeks later a further 8 scientists were invited. The 35 invitees were as follows:

  • Adrian, Haddow* and Hinshelwood (UK)
  • Beadle, Bronk, Compton, Oppenheimer, Rabinowitch* and Weisskopf (USA)
  • Peter Kapitza, Nesmeyanov*, Nuzhdin, Oparin*, Sissakian*, Skobeltzyn* and Topchiev* (USSR)
  • Hahn, Heisenberg and Rajewski* (FRG)
  • de Broglie and Lacassagne* (France)
  • Tomonaga* and Tsuzuki* (Japan)
  • Kothari* and Krishnan (India)
  • Amaldi (Italy)
  • Niels Bohr (Denmark)
  • Burgess (Netherlands)
  • de Castro* (Brazil)
  • de Hevesy* (Sweden)
  • Hertz* (GDR)
  • Li-Tze-Kuang* (China)
  • Oliphant* (Australia)
  • Schweitzer (Gabon )
  • Thirring* (Austria)

Eighteen of these (their names are asterisked) accepted. Those who refused gave as reasons previous engagements or ill-health. Only a very few doubted the value of the proposed Conference.

From among the Russell-Einstein signatories, five (Infeld, Pauling, Powell, Rotblat and Yukawa) expressed willingness to participate in the Conference in New Delhi. Thus, there would have been a total of 23 scientists, roughly the number planned by the organizers.

Although in the letter of invitation, the latter half of December 1956 was given as the date for the meeting, in subsequent letters the date was fixed for 9 - 12 January 1957.

In the event, the plans for the New Delhi meeting had to be aborted. The uneasy political situation following the Suez and Hungary crises was one reason. The other was the failure to secure funds for travel expenses. Consequently, letters were sent on 22 November 1956 to all those who accepted, informing them of the cancellation of the Conference.

It was at that stage that the initial offer made by Cyrus Eaton was recalled. In an exchange of cables it was quickly agreed that the Conference could be held in July 1957 in Pugwash. Another set of letters, this time including a draft agenda, was despatched on 8 February 1957. It was addressed to those of the earlier invitees to New Delhi who had either accepted or had refused because of previous engagements. In addition, 18 new invitations were sent to the following: Massey and Waddington (UK); Bethe, Harrison-Brown, Cavers, Doty, Selove, Smyth, Szilard, Urey and Weaver (USA); Kuzin (USSR)*, BrockChisholm (Canada)*, Chou-Pei-Yuan (China); Rehberg (Denmark); Butenandt (FRG); Ogawa (Japan); and Danysz (Poland). At the request of Mr. Cyrus Eaton another Canadian, John Foster, was also invited.

Several of those who have replied in the affirmative to the invitation to Pugwash (Haddow, Hertz, Nesmeyanov and Waddington) subsequently withdrew, mainly due to ill-health. Of the Russell-Einstein signatories, Infeld and Pauling also had to withdraw.


July 6th, 1956.

Dear Professor Rotblat,

You will remember that in July of last year you were one of the signatories of a letter which suggested that scientists should meet in conference to appraise the perils associated with the development of weapons of mass destruction, and to discuss a resolution urging governments to find peaceful means for the settlement of all matters in dispute between them.

Nearly a year has passed since that letter was published and during this time there has been a substantial reduction in international tension; there still, however, seem to be important reasons for holding a meeting of scientists, some of which are set out in the appended letter.

The object of the enclosed draft letter is to invite a number of distinguished scientists to meet as a committee for the purpose of making an appraisal of the present dangers arising from weapons of mass destruction. I hope it will be generally agreed by all those who have been working towards this end, that, to be effective, such a committee should be drawn from scientists of the highest integrity who are widely representative of different political and other opinions. A proper balance in this respect appears to be of central importance.

It has been suggested to me that it could be both appropriate and possible for the meeting of this committee to be held in India, shortly before the Indian Science Conference which takes place in the first of January 1957, and I feel that it should be limited to about twenty scientists. I thought that invitations be sent, in the first instance, to the following scientists:

  • Oliphant (Australia)
  • Li Tse Kuang (China)
  • Bohr Lacassagne (France);
  • Hahn, Hertz(Germany);
  • Hinshelwood, Haddow (Great Britain);
  • Kothari, Krishnan (India);
  • Amaldi (Italy);
  • Tomonaga (Japan);
  • Hevesy (Sweden);
  • Rabinowitch, Weisskopf (USA);
  • Topchiev, Nesmeyanov (USSR).

Doubtless not all those approached would feel able to take part, and other approaches would have to be made subsequently to such personalities as seemed desirable, in order that the prime requirement of a balanced committee should be fulfilled.

I should be glad to know, at your early convenience, whether you would consent to sign the draft letter, as it stands or suitably amended: whether you would feel able to take part in the work of the committee: and whether you would care to make suggestions of the names of other scientists whom you consider it would be appropriate to invite. I should be grateful if, in considering these proposals, you would not take into consideration in the first instance, the expense of the journey to India and subsistence therein. I hope that it may be possible, by calling on a variety of resources, to make provision for a major part of the costs involved.

Yours sincerely,

Bertrand Russell

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