Physics in Perspective

, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 136-156

First online:

A Physicist in the Corridors of Power: P. M. S. Blackett's Opposition to Atomic Weapons Following the War

  • M. J. NyeAffiliated withDepartment of History, Milam Hall 306, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331-5104, USA, e-mail:

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Fear, War and the Bomb

. Blackett had been a naval officer during the First World War, a veteran of Ernest Rutherford's Cavendish Laboratory and head of the physics department at Manchester in the interwar years, and he was a founder of operational research during the Second World War. Vilified in the British and American press in the 1940s and 1950s, he continued to contest prevailing nuclear weapons strategy, finding a more favorable reception for his arguments by the early 1960s. This paper examines the publication and reception of Blackett's views on atomic weapons, analyzing the risks to a physicist who writes about a subject other than physics, as well as the circumstances that might compel one to do so.

Key words

Atomic energy atomic weapons P. M. S. Blackett Cold War Labour Party nuclear physics nuclear strategy operational research physics politics Royal Navy C. P. Snow socialism USA USSR