Jack Steinberger (1921-2020)
Pugwash mourns the passing of Nobel Laureate Jack Steinberger, who died on December 12, 2020, at his home in Geneva at the age of 99. After 1945, he became an experimental physicist under Enrico Fermi and Edward Teller, and, after arriving at CERN in 1968, became director of experimental research in particle physics, thus becoming a leading and worldwide respected particle physicist. In 1988 he shared the Nobel Prize in physics (with with Leon E. Lederman and Melvin Schwartz) for expanding the understanding of the long-mysterious neutrino. Throughout his life, he joined other scientists in speaking out against nuclear weapons and American militarism. He declined to do weapons work and was a strong advocate for a world without nuclear weapons. He attended several Pugwash conferences, inter alia in Geneva, Germany, and Castiglioncello.
Vladimir Fortov (1946-2020)
The Russian Pugwash Committee under the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) deeply mourns the death of the President of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 2013-2017, a member of the Russian Pugwash Committee since 2002, participant of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs since 1991, Academic Secretary of the Department of Energy, Machine Engineering, Mechanics and Control Processes of the RAS, Scientific Director of the Joint Institute of High Temperatures of the RAS, member of the RAS Presidium, winner of the USSR State Prize and State Prizes of the Russian Federation, Full Knight of the Order of Merit for the Fatherland, Academician Vladimir FORTOV and expresses his sincere condolences to the family and friends of the deceased. Academician Vladimir Fortov died on the morning of November 29, 2020 from COVID-19.
Bruce Blair (1947-2020)
The Pugwash community is deeply saddened to hear of the sudden passing of Bruce Blair, a tireless and effective advocate of nuclear disarmament. Bruce, a former Minuteman ICBM launch control officer, took on the burden of warning about the risks of inadvertent, accidental and deliberate launch of nuclear weapons, and championed the cause of de-alerting, disassembling, and eliminating nuclear weapons. Bruce co-founded and led Global Zero, which has been a significant presence in the field of arms control and disarmament. Bruce also participated in several Pugwash initiatives. His energy and commitment will be strongly missed. We extend our sympathy to his family on this irreparable loss.
Roland Timerbaev (1927-2019)
The Pugwash community is saddened by the loss of Roland Timerbaev, a leading non-proliferation specialist and one of the authors of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of
Nuclear Weapons. Ambassador Timerbaev was a prominent scientist and diplomat, who during a long and distinguished career served as a participant to the creation of the ABM Treaty, as Permanent Representative of the USSR and the Russian Federation to the International Organizations in Vienna (1988-1992), as President and Chairman of the Executive Board of the PIR Center in 1994-2010, and, as a Pugwashite since 1997, was a member of the Russian Pugwash Committee between 2001-2014. Pugwash President Sergio Duarte and Secretary General Paolo Cotta Ramusino convey their personal condolences to the family of Ambassador Roland Timerbaev on his passing, as well as to colleagues in Russian Pugwash and PIR Center. Ambassador Duarte added that, “As a young member of the Brazilian delegation to the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Committee from 1966 to 1968 I had the privilege of working with Roland during the discussions of the draft NPT and later on different occasions. His competence, professionalism and warm personality will continue to inspire diplomats who work for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.”
Victor Rabinowitch (1935-2019)
Jeffrey Boutwell, Secretary, US Pugwash, made the following tribute:
Dr. Victor Rabinowitch, a decades-long friend, colleague and supporter of Pugwash, died on July 1, 2019 after a brief illness. Vic was a sparkling presence wherever you might meet up with him. He attended more than 25 Pugwash workshops, symposia and conferences, the first being the 9th Pugwash Conference held in Cambridge, UK in August 1962. Vic attended that meeting with his father, the physicist Eugene Rabinowitch, who had worked with Jo Rotblat to organize the inaugural Pugwash meeting in Nova Scotia in July 1957 and was Pugwash President in 1969-1970, as well as co-founder of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Having earned a Ph.D. in the interesting combination of zoology and international relations from the University of Wisconsin, Vic became an ardent supporter of international scientific and security cooperation which he promoted through a long, distinguished career with the National Academy of Sciences, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and numerous board positions with a variety of organizations. I have two priceless memories of Vic, among many. In July 1989, at the 39th Pugwash Conference in Cambridge, Mass., which I helped organize, Vic insisted that I take time off so we could spend the evening at Fenway Park to see our beloved Boston Red Sox. A year later, in September 1990 just prior to the 40th Pugwash Conference in Egham, UK, Vic and I took a train together into London so we could lie on the grass in St. James Park and watch a Supermarine Spitfire, Hawker Hurricane, and Lancaster bomber fly directly overhead toward Buckingham Palace as part of the 50th anniversary flyover in observance of the Battle of Britain. Vic leaves a wonderful, extended family, including his wife, Marti, herself a Pugwash participant at the 44th Pugwash Conference on the island of Crete in July 1994. Vic had that special gift of bringing a smile to your face whenever you saw him, and will be very much missed.
Michael Atiyah (1929-2019)
The Pugwash community is saddened by the loss of Sir Michael Atiyah, who died on 11 January 2019. He had served as the Pugwash President from 1997-2002.
Pugwash Secretary-General Paolo Cotta-Ramusino made the following tribute:
He was one of the greatest mathematicians of all time. He received the Field Medal in 1996 and was awarded the Abel Prize in 2004. He worked in Algebraic and Differential Geometry and in Mathematical Physics (Gauge theories). I met Atiyah first in 1984 and I can say that talking with him was an impressive experience. Pugwash was highly honoured to have him as President. Given also his Lebanese origin, he had a special sensitivity in dealing with Middle Eastern problems. He will be remembered with fondness and admiration by all the Pugwash community for years to come.”
Michael Atiyah and Pugwash: some personal recollections, by Francesco Calogero (former Pugwash Secretary-General)
Michael Atiyah (hereafter MA) was an eminent mathematician, and during his lifetime he deserved and obtained essentially all the most significant recognitions by the world mathematical and scientific community. This brief report focuses mainly on his involvement with Pugwash, as seen through my own eyes. In 1995, in his valedictory speech at the end of his tenure as President of the Royal Society, MA surprised his audience by focusing on the danger posed by nuclear weaponry. This fact convinced Joseph Rotblat—then serving as President of Pugwash—that he would be his ideal successor in that role. He suggested this idea to me—then serving (since 1989) as Secretary General of Pugwash—and we then went (together with Sebastian Pease, then serving as Chair of the British Pugwash Group) to investigate with MA whether he would be willing to serve in such a position (in principle, for the coming Quinquennium 1997-2002). MA kindly agreed to receive us in his then residence as Master of Trinity College in Cambridge—an impressive event for me, as this was the house where Isaac Newton had lived, and there was still some furniture from that time, including a pendulum clock! MA asked us to bring him up to date on the Pugwash activities and organizational structure—including of course an explanation (in the context of the Pugwash leadership: President, Secretary-General, Chair of the Pugwash Council, Chair of the Pugwash Executive Committee) of the role of the President. We told him that having a first-rate scientist as President is important in terms of the image of Pugwash and for its official functions, but it does not imply any day-to-day organizational responsibility, this being the role of the Secretary General (de facto the CEO of the organization). At the end of our conversation MA told us that he was favorably inclined to accept to serve as President but liked to have a little more time to think about this matter. He was also interested to know who my successor as next Secretary General of Pugwash would be, as we had told him that we were then also looking for a new Secretary General: I indeed wished to be replaced in order to return full-time to my scientific activity. So the next task for me and Rotblat was to find an appropriate candidate for my replacement as new Secretary-General. The candidate I identified was George Rathjens; who also, before agreeing to eventually serve in that capacity, liked to know who the next President of Pugwash would be. And to complete the operation it was of course also necessary to secure the agreement of the Pugwash Council to both these appointments, and also to my appointment to serve as Chair of the Pugwash Council for the next Quinquennium, thereby providing some continuity in the running of Pugwash: this was indeed then perceived as quite important by the new Secretary General—inasmuch as it facilitated the continued support of the Pugwash Council to the Secretary General in the actual running of Pugwash, in particular in the organization of the Pugwash Workshops which constitute the main avenue for Pugwash to promote arms control and disarmament. The entire transition was managed successfully at the 1997 “Quinquennial” Annual Conference. This was perhaps facilitated by the fact that in 1995 Pugwash had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (the motivation read: “…for their efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics and in the longer run to eliminate such arms. It is fifty years this year since the two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and forty years since the issuing of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto. The Manifesto laid the foundations for the Pugwash Conferences, which have maintained a high level of activity to this day…). During the next 5 years MA served excellently as President of Pugwash, by developing a quite friendly relation with George Rathjens, whom he supported in his job, by delivering inspiring speeches at the opening of every Annual Pugwash Conference, and by also participating in some Pugwash activities; he was particularly interested, because of his upbringing, in those focused on the Middle East situation. I of course met with him at every Annual Pugwash Conference and often we also managed to talk mathematics; at that time some of his mathematical interests were on sufficiently simple problems to be understandable to me. And he was interested in my mathematical-physics activities; indeed, curiously enough, he had given a talk on a result of mine—indeed, possibly my most important scientific achievement—soon after it was published way back in 1971…being perhaps the very first mathematician to notice its relevance… Recently MA wrote a paper entitled “The fine structure constant”, in which he indicated how this fundamental physical parameter could be computed within a purely mathematical context; and he e-mailed a preprint of it to me. I read the paper, but it was/is way beyond my mathematical competence. I was however quite impressed by the fact that the purely mathematical computation of this physical constant—in my opinion, an impossible task—yielded a result coincident with its value (to the extent it is experimentally known: up to 9 decimal figures). So I wrote back to him my amazement for this finding. He wrote back that the coincidence with the experimentally known value was not the most important aspect of his finding; what he considered important was the way his finding was arrived at—namely the part which was/is quite beyond my comprehension. It will be for others than myself to eventually assess how things stand on this matter. But we also took the opportunity to exchange several e-mails on Pugwash developments, in which he was still quite interested. As this happened only weeks ago, the news of his death came to me as a sudden bad shock; he was of course quite old (89), but only 5 years older than myself… MA was a man of extraordinary intelligence; of course, primarily in mathematics. But as well in world affairs. And his care for the welfare of humanity was very strong, as also demonstrated by his willingness to commit his time, his ability and his prestige to Pugwash. A good example, to be followed.
Yuri Alekseevich Ryzhov (1930-2017)
Academician Rizhov was a very sensible and warm personality. He has been for long time the Chair of the Russian Pugwash Committee. He represented the original spirit of Pugwash, focused on avoiding nuclear risks and promoting reciprocal understanding between Russia and the West. He was very much supporting what we can call democratic values across the boundaries. His departure saddens us, but his memory is a powerful reminder of what Pugwash was meant to be and still is meant to be. I wish to express to his entire family and all his friends the deep condolences of the Pugwash community.
Miguel Marin Bosch (1942-2017)
Pugwash President Jayantha Dhanapala reflects on the life of Pugwash council member Miguel Marin Bosch.I am personally grieved to learn of the death of Ambassador Miguel Marin Bosch, a redoubtable champion of disarmament throughout his distinguished career as Mexico’s Disarmament Ambassador in Geneva and other multilateral fora. Miguel Marin Bosch was closely associated with me in several Review Conferences of the Treaty for the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) where he stood steadfast against any compromise on fundamental principles. With his prodigious expertise and mordant wit, he was the bane of some of the nuclear weapon states who shamelessly lobbied to silence him, especially at the NPT Review and Extension Conference of 1995. We were closely associated in the Conference on Disarmament, in the First Committee of the General Assembly, and other disarmament fora. Our comradeship in Pugwash was all too brief but Miguel was one of our stalwarts. On my assumption of duties as Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament heading a re-established Department for Disarmament Affairs in the UN in New York, I was happy Miguel accepted my invitation to join the Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters where he made an enormous contribution with several initiatives such as on Disarmament Education on which he chaired the Group of Governmental Experts. Mexico and Latin America, the first continent to have a nuclear weapon free zone fifty years ago, have produced many outstanding diplomats dedicated to disarmament. Among them Alfonso Garcia Robles and Miguel Marin Bosch’s names will shine as a models for future generations of diplomats and others working on multilateral disarmament. I send my condolences to the family, to the Government and to the people of Mexico. Pugwash has suffered a grievous and irreparable loss.