Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs

The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs (often abbreviated Pugwash) is an international organization focused on reducing global catastrophic risks posed by nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.


Pugwash was founded in 1957 by Bertrand Russell and Joseph Rotblat, following the release of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto two years earlier. That document expressed the opinion that "scientists should assemble in conference to appraise the perils that have arisen as a result of the development of weapons of mass destruction", and Pugwash was an attempt to create just such a forum, to facilitate communication between East and West by bringing together eminent scientists from both sides of the Iron Curtain.

In 1995, Pugwash and Rotblat were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics and, in the longer run, to eliminate such arms."[1]


A comprehensive literature review by the Urban Institute commissioned by Open Philanthropy found relatively strong evidence, from both primary and secondary sources, that Pugwash played a very important role in enabling the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) and the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABT).[2] Furthermore, in the 1980s Pugwash had a significant influence on Soviet policy: Mikhail Gorbachev reportedly told Rotblat that "Pugwash scientists were crucial in shaping his views against nuclear weapons."[3]

Despite these and other achievements, Pugwash faced recurrent financial difficulties after severing its ties to Cyrus Eaton, the wealthy industrialist who provided initial funding for the conference series. Rotblat noted that, for many years, Pugwash "was run on a shoestring",[4] and the author of the review concludes that "Pugwash seems to have been almost constantly in danger of insolvency."[5]

Further reading

Evangelista, Matthew (2002) Unarmed Forces: The Transnational Movement to End the Cold War, Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. 
According to Paul Rubinson's literature review, this book is the"most groundbreaking work on Pugwash".

Karnofsky, Holden (2019) History of philanthropy literature review: Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, Open Philanthropy, April 8.

Kraft, Alison, Holger Nehring & Carola Sachse (2018) The Pugwash Conferences and the global cold war: scientists, transnational networks, and the complexity of nuclear histories, Journal of Cold War Studies, vol. 20, pp. 4–30.

Lenz, John R. (1996) Pugwash and Russell’s legacy, The Bertrand Russell Society Quarterly, vol. 89, pp. 18–24.

Rubinson, Paul (2019) Pugwash literature review, Urban Institute.

Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. Official website.

Bertrand Russell | global catastrophic risk | nuclear disarmament movement | nuclear warfare | Russell-Einstein Manifesto | weapons of mass destruction

  1. ^

    The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (1995) The Nobel Peace Prize 1995, The Nobel Prize, October 13.

  2. ^

    Rubinson, Paul (2019) Pugwash literature review, Urban Institute.

  3. ^

    Rubinson, Pugwash literature review, p. 10.

  4. ^

    Rotblat, Joseph (1972) Scientists in the Quest for Peace: A History of the Pugwash Conferences, Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, p. 14.

  5. ^

    Rubinson, Pugwash literature review, p. 18.

  6. ^

    Rubinson, Pugwash literature review, p. 6.

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