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Interview Transcript

Sergei Kapitsa   (cont)
Interviewer:  Were you part of Pugwash by then?

Mr.  Kapitsa:  I don't really remember.  I think I was already, yes.  Yes.

Interview:  So say something about the Pugwash.

Mr.  Kapitsa:  Well, I just came back yesterday from spending three days within a meeting, special meeting.  It was the fifth meeting of the Nuclear Atomic Bomb sort of establishment of American and Russia, and discussing what to do with all these leftovers.  But in those days it was quite different.  The controversy was at the height of the Cold War.  I wasn't, myself, connected in any way with the nuclear weapons development.  But we were all physicists, and that's physics, however, part of it.  What happened in those days, well Pugwash was a very sensible thing.  It was a group of scientists who were very much concerned with the development of nuclear weapons and their implications, because nobody really understood what it was all about, I must say.  They, for the military, it was a bigger and better bomb.  They didn't in any way understand the consequences of this thing.  I say even this revelation of my grandfather, of course, saw that you can really compare the Krakatau explosion with the atom bomb, was for them was beyond the imagination of most of the military.  Although he was an admiral in the Russian fleet, and knew things very well, but he had much broader outlook that the military certainly lacked.  So, that was one of the most important things--to explain at large, first to yourselves, and then to others, to the statesmen, to the military, the real danger of an all out nuclear war.  And this was a debate that I was quite engaged in.

Interviewer:  And, looking back, Sergei, do you feel that Pugwash really produced new understandings about the consequences of the bomb or was it mainly a propaganda?

Mr.  Kapitsa:  No, it was that they had to work it out.  You see, it was not propaganda.  Pugwash role was kept.  Pugwash was founded by Lloyd Russell, the English philosopher, mathematician.  The man with very sort of broad of looks.  He was a Lord by birth, a Nobel prize winner, and one of very controversial, very remarkable figure.  He was prompted by a number of physicists to do something after the invention of the ultimate weapon, after the invention of the hydrogen bomb, when you could make a bomb of any size.  And what he suggested was to convene a group of scientists from America and Russia, rated with internationalized, to really bypass the official channels of discussion and speak together, not as diplomats of opposite parties, but as people belonging to the same world of science, world of reason.

 Einstein helped by signing, on his death bed, the first letter, brilliantly written by Russell, a manifesto that triggered off the whole event.  That was the first, and really the only major public event that was done in those days.  That launched the meetings of these scientists, they were called Pugwash because that's the town in Nova Scotia in Canada, and it was done with the support and with the money of that Canadian industrialists.  Just, I forgot his name for a moment.  Well, it doesn't matter.  I had led to a number of meetings, running, now I think they're been more than 250 meetings like that, --cause they are numbered consecutively--a major meeting every year.  The next meeting will be this autumn in Mexico.  This was a meeting of a smaller group run in Moscow on the nuclear establishments.  But this hasn't been for nearly 40 years.  My father got involved in this after he sort of re-entered the public scene after the death of Stalin and all that.  It all happened of course after the death of Stalin of course.  Einstein died in '55.  The first Pugwash movement was in '58 or '57, I think it was in '58 or '57.  Since then, it has been a continuous series of these meetings, with, I say, a rather low profile, but people who are really connected with the government, well, for example, yesterday in Moscow we had McNamara, the former minister of defense and one of the architects of American nuclear policy.

Interviewer:  So, Sergei, you've, that's been a large part of your life, you could say, is this cultural diplomacy of--besides Pugwash, what other initiatives would be worthwhile discussing here briefly, not only Russian/American, but Soviet and other outside the Soviet Union?

Mr.  Kapitsa:  Well, it's, of course, it's all connected with science, you see.  Well, I was always intimately connected and we built one of my accelerators in Guggenheim, this Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, 100 kilometers to the north of Moscow, that was internationally suit.  I've often visited the huge laboratory near Geneva, most large American laboratories, like Slack, Brookhaven, Fermilab or international laboratories that they may have over there, national group.  Now there are so many Russians there, after they can't work anymore in the country.

Interviewer:  Wouldn't you say this is an underappreciated story by many people, how much this scientific collaboration helped prevent conflict?


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