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The Pugwash Conferences: promoting communication between scientists

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Celebrating Sweden's 150 years without war
Carl Djerassi Scientist
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It worked for the Soviets particularly well, because there were such enormous restrictions for travel for them that any opportunity to be able to travel was already a great thing, and somehow they were permitted to travel, but because Cyrus Eaton was also a persona summa grata in the, in the Soviet Union- I might just add this, so the fact that he offered his, his place in Nova Scotia probably helped in that respect, and I’m not sure, but it could well have done so. In any event, that went on every year, and obviously it did- each year in a different place, in absolutely wonderful places. Anything from, I don’t know, from Venice, to Kashmir, to, to Mexico, Africa, you name it, Nice, Oxford, and in Finland, Ramania. I’m just trying to remember some of the places that I went to, and it was always limited to about 50 to 100 people, and all by invitation only, you could not just decide you’d go there, and it was until the middle 1960s, exclusively an East West proposition, and deservedly so, and the main focus was only nuclear disarmament, and they had a great deal to do with facilitating the first Geneva Trade- Test Ban Treaty, of 19- whatever, 62, or 63, which was the first real success, because the Russians started to trust the Westerners, and the Westerners that participated in it, all were on the, on the slightly pinkish side, or sometimes even pinker than pink, but, but so it was- it worked. But interestingly enough there were some very important people. Lets say Kissinger was a member at that time, and many other very influential politicians, ex prime ministers, or prospective prime ministers of countries, ambassadors, and so on there, so it, it more or less worked. And in 1966, or 67 the Pugwash Conference was held in, in Sweden, because that was in celebration for the 150th, if you want to call it, anniversary of continued peace in Sweden. Sweden literally hadn’t had a war for 150 years, which is really quite extraordinary, and they wanted to really celebrate this, under the then Socialist Government, and it was opened by the Socialist Prime Minister, in Southern Sweden, and they celebrated it by establishing an International Peace Research Institute in Stockholm. And so the theme was that, which was a very lovely one, and that certainly is an important think tank, which still exists, and it really resonated with me, it was the first conference I attended, and I’ll tell you in a moment why, because, when I lived in Vienna, as a child, two minutes away was the War Ministry. At that time, literally it was called the Ministry of War, and it was probably the only country during the ex imperial times where it was called War Ministry. In every other country the euphemism was Defence Ministry, although most of them are not really just defence, and there was a big Latin inscription over that building, and it said, si vis pacem para bellum. If you want war- if you want peace prepare for war, and I’ve always changed that in my mind, and it is also the screensaver on my computer, which says, si vis pacem para pacem, you know, I pronounce it the German way, that’s how I learned Latin. Here you would say, si vis pakem para pakem, in other words, if you want peace prepare for peace, rather prepare for war. Well that, in a way was a motto of, of the Peace Research Institute, of the Swedes, so that was a great thing.

Austrian-American Carl Djerassi (1923-2015) was best known for his work on the synthesis of the steroid cortisone and then of a progesterone derivative that was the basis of the first contraceptive pill. He wrote a number of books, plays and poems, in the process inventing a new genre, 'science-in-fiction', illustrated by the novel 'Cantor's Dilemma' which explores ethics in science.

Listeners: Tamara Tracz

Tamara Tracz is a writer and filmmaker based in London.

Tags: Venice, Kashmir, Africa, France, Finland, Ramania, Sweden, Peace Research Institute

Duration: 4 minutes, 29 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008