Embattled Cooperation(s): Peaceful Atoms, Pacifist Physicists, and Partisans of Peace in the Early Cold War (1947–1957)

  • Stefano SalviaEmail author


The famous nuclear physicist Bruno Pontecorvo, who defected to the USSR in 1950, was affiliated to the internationalist network called “Partisans of Peace,” founded in 1949. Later renamed the World Peace Council, it was an organization of pacifist scientists, intellectuals, and artists like Frédéric Joliot-Curie and Pablo Picasso that was similar to the Pugwash movement, but part of the Comintern (later Cominform). As noted by Albert Einstein, the Partisans of Peace were “pacifist” in a very particular sense: they strongly criticized Western nuclear policies, but they justified the Soviet atomic programme as inevitable response to them. At the same time, physicists who joined the 1955 Russell–Einstein Manifesto like Joseph Rotblat and Norbert Wiener, or the 1957 Göttingen Declaration like Otto Hahn and Max Born, were suspicious about the 1955 “Atoms for Peace” program, sponsored by the United States to balance the Soviet influence in Europe as well as in non-aligned countries. I will discuss these different—and partially overlapping—scientific-cooperation networks built in the name of “peace” during the hottest years of the Cold War, when peace itself had become an ideological weapon in the hands of a militarized science.


Atoms Cold War cooperation partisans peace physicists 



I want to thank Christian Forstner (Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main), coordinator of the Workgroup History of Physics of the German Physical Society, for giving me the opportunity to work on Cold War science issues by dealing with Bruno Pontecorvo’s intellectual and political biography. Thanks also to Götz Neuneck (IFSH – Institut für Friedensforschung und Sicherheitspolitik an der Universität Hamburg) for his stimulating remarks on “Track-II Diplomacy” in relation to Pugwash and Niels Bohr’s critical attitude. I am very grateful indeed to Cathy Eaton, Cyrus Eaton’s granddaughter, for publishing my presentation on the Thinkers’ Lodge Histories website ( It was a great honor.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civilisations and Forms of KnowledgeUniversity of PisaPisaItaly

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