Philip Morrison, a Cornell Professor of Physics, expresses doubts about atomic warfare and then faces a Congressional anticommunist investigating committee, 1952

a brief excerpt from: SUBVERSIVE INFLUENCE IN THE EDUCATIONAL PROCESS (Hearings before the Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and other Internal Security Laws of the Committee on the Judiciary, US Senate, 82nd congress, 2nd session, Sept. 8, 9, 10, 23, 24, 25, and Oct. 13, 1952 (US Govt Printing Office, 1952)

Mr. Morris. Did you contribute an article to the Scientific Amercan?

Dr. Morrison. I have had it published. I don't know if you call that contributing or not.

Mr. Morris. Did you write a review of a book by an Englishman named P.M.S. Blackett, entitled "Fear, War, and the Bomb?"

Dr. Morrison. I reviewed P.M.S. Blackett's book for the Herald Tribune and for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

Mr. Morris. And you praised that book?

Dr. Morrison. I said that book had many excellent things in it. I also criticized an amendment. I wrote an honest review of the book.

Mr. Morris. Mr. Chairman, may that review of Dr. Morrison of P.M.S. Blackett's book entitled "Fear, War, and the Bomb" be put into the record?

The Chairman. It may be made part of the record.

(The material referred to follows:)

by Philip Morrison
[Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, February 1949]

It is 3 years since the writing of the first extensive political work of the atomic scientists: One World or None. Now the same publishers put out the American edition of a book by another scientist, the distinguished. well-informed, and earnest P.M.S. Blackett of Great Britain. As a contributor to the first book, I feel no proprietary pangs in urging all those who bought or borrowed it--and there were many--to get hold of the Blackett book.

It is written at a sadder time, and perhaps a wiser one. It is written by a man whose experience is both that of a physicist and that of a military man, and who is no American, but an Englishman, willing to take a somewhat more critical position on the issues of the day than almost any American scientist has publicly done. It is a book which does Professor Blackett credit for its thoughtfulness and scope, even though as he himself points out it is by no means "the whole truth." Read it if you wish to have an opinion on the issues of atomic energy.

My piece in One World or None was the description of the effect of a single atomic bomb on New York City. It is a frightening article, as I have many times tested by direct observation. Yet it is a major thesis of the Blackett book--and I believe a correct thesis--that even a thousand bombs will not of themselves decide the issue of a major war. We said there is no defense, and we meant it. It is still true. But we spoke in a different language from the language of Blackett. We did not speak in terms of strategy, in terms of overall economies, in terms of production and territorial conquest. We spoke of the impact of the bomb on the homes and the hopes of men and women.

I wrote of the lingering death of the radiation casualties, of the horrible flash burns, of the human wretchedness and misery that every atomic bomb will leave near its ground zero. Against this misery there is indeed no real defense. Neither our oceans nor our radar nor our fighters can keep us intact through another major war. But--and I quote Blackett (p. 159): "The very effective campaign, largely initiated by the atomic scientists themselves, to make the world aware of the terrible dangers of atomic bombs, played an important part in bringing pressure to bear on the American Government to propose measures to control atomic weapons and to take them out of the hands of the military."

The hearing transcript provides this note on Morrison:
"Professor Morrison is a nuclear physicist who took part in the design and fabrication of the bomb at Los AIamos Laboratory. He is now a member of the Physics Department at Cornell University."

  • SISS was enabled by the McCarran Act.


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