MIT, Pugwash have long-time links


The late Bernard Feld and the late Jerome B. Wiesner are the most prominent of a number of MIT professors who were involved in the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, which won the Nobel Peace Prize last week. Other MIT professors and researchers involved in Pugwash included Jack Ruina, the late David Frisch, Kosta Tsipis, George W. Rathjens, Victor Weisskopf, Herman Feshbach and Carl Kaysen.

Dr. Feld, professor emeritus of physics until his death in 1992, began attending in 1958 and from 1974 to 1978 served as secretary general (the chief executive position) of the Pugwash Conferences. Dr. Feld succeeded Professor Joseph Rotblat, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last Friday and served more than 16 years as secretary general. From 1963 until 1973 Dr. Feld headed the American involvement in Pugwash in his position with the Cambridge-based American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as chairman of the Committee on Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs.

Dr. Wiesner, scientific advisor to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson from 1961 to 1964 and later president of MIT, also was deeply involved in Pugwash beginning in 1958. At the Pugwash conference in Moscow in 1960, Dr. Wiesner presented a proposal for limited deterrent force as a basis for a comprehensive disarmament system.

In his book, "Where Science and Politics Meet," Dr. Wiesner wrote about his work on disarmament in 1960, when he was a member of President Eisenhower's Science Advisory Committee Disarmament Panel and also discussed the problems at a weekly Harvard-MIT meeting. Writing of professional conferences, Dr. Wiesner said, "The most important and rewarding of these were the Pugwash meetings, where scientists from many countries explored the roles of science and scientists in coping with contemporary social problems. The quest for relief from dangers and waste of the arms race was our principal preoccupation."

Jack Ruina, professor emeritus at MIT and another veteran Pugwash member, said that Dr. Wiesner used his Pugwash connection to gain entry to the USSR for quiet negotiations on disarmament issues.

Dr. Ruina made the initial and very controversial proposal for an ABM (anti-ballistic missile) treaty at a Pugwash conference. Kosta Tsipis, recalling that proposal, said that it created great controversy among scientists and world political figures, "but slowly we educated them."

The archives of MIT are a major resource of historical material on Pugwash through the records and correspondence files of Dr. Feld, Dr. Wiesner, and Herbert Scoville, the former deputy director of the CIA who later became deeply involved in disarmament.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 18, 1995.


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