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Joining the President's Science Advisory Committee


Losing international control of nuclear research and weapons
Hans Bethe Scientist
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International control was lost at that time, and it is too bad that it was. But it did mean that each country, and in particular the... American Atomic Energy Commission had a free hand to develop what they wanted. In the years from then until now, statesmen in the big countries - particularly the United States and the Soviet Union, and also England and France, came to... and I suppose, also China - came to the conclusion that the use of nuclear weapons in war was impossible, because in contrast to the Japanese experience, it would not be two bombs which would end the war, but instead of that, if there were nuclear war, it would be hundreds of bombs used on each side, destroying the other country. And it would not be the end of the war but the beginning of a complete destruction of the other country and their own country, probably the destruction of civilization.

The late German-American physicist Hans Bethe once described himself as the H-bomb's midwife. He left Nazi Germany in 1933, after which he helped develop the first atomic bomb, won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1967 for his contribution to the theory of nuclear reactions, advocated tighter controls over nuclear weapons and campaigned vigorously for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Listeners: Sam Schweber

Silvan Sam Schweber is the Koret Professor of the History of Ideas and Professor of Physics at Brandeis University, and a Faculty Associate in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University. He is the author of a history of the development of quantum electro mechanics, "QED and the men who made it", and has recently completed a biography of Hans Bethe and the history of nuclear weapons development, "In the Shadow of the Bomb: Oppenheimer, Bethe, and the Moral Responsibility of the Scientist" (Princeton University Press, 2000).

Tags: Atomic Energy Commission, USA, Soviet Union, UK, France, China, WWII

Duration: 1 minute, 38 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008