Original Paper

Physics in Perspective

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 138-149

First online:

American Physicists, Nuclear Weapons in World War II, and Social Responsibility

  • Lawrence BadashAffiliated withDepartment of History, University of California, Santa Barbara Email author 

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Social responsibility in science has a centuries-long history, but it was such a minor thread that most scientists were unaware of the concept. Even toward the conclusion of the Manhattan Project, which produced the first nuclear weapons, only a handful of its participants had some reservations about use of a weapon of mass destruction. But the explosions over Hiroshima and Nagasaki not only made society more aware of the importance of science, they made scientists more aware of their responsibility to society. I describe the development of the concept of social responsibility and its appearance among American scientists both before and after the end of World War II.

Key words.

James Franck J. Robert Oppenheimer Ernest Rutherford Leo Szilard Robert R. Wilson World War II Manhattan Project Hiroshima Nagasaki atomic bomb fission nuclear weapons social responsibility