• Faithful to my Homeland, the Republic of Poland


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  • 6 November 2017

    A plaque commemorating the life and work of Sir Joseph Rotblat, the Polish scientist awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995 for his campaiging against nuclear weapons, was unveiled in central London earlier today.


    The ceremony took place on the corner of Bury Place and Great Russell Street, outside the UK offices of the Pugwash organisation, which Rotblat worked with and which was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize with him. Among the guests were Poland’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom Arkady Rzegocki, Mayor of Camden Councillor Richard Cotton, Astronomer Royal Lord Rees of Ludlow and Chairman of British Pugwash Peter Jenkins.


    Ambassador Arkady Rzegocki said: “I am delighted to take part in today's unveiling ceremony of the plaque dedicated to Sir Joseph Rotblat - a man who changed the way scientists viewed their work and who strived for global peace.


    “Joseph Rotblat was an outstanding scientist who recognised that science is not an activity to be carried out in isolation from the world we live in. He believed passionately in the importance of scientists debating openly and objectively their different views about the consequences of their work.”


    At the end of the ceremony, Ambassador Rzegocki, Cllr Cotton, Lord Rees and Peter Jenkins accepted a book from Joseph Rotblat’s niece Frances to mark the official acceptance of the plaque.


    The plaque is the result of a collaboration between the Polish Heritage Society UK (PHS), a charity dedicated to celebrating the achievements of Poles in the UK and their contribution to British life, the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in the United Kingdom and the British Pugwash.


    Following the unveiling, the invited guests gathered at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in London to listen to reflections on the life and work of Sir Joseph Rotblat.


    Joseph Rotblat, who described himself as “a Pole with a British passport”, was born in Warsaw on 4th November, 1908, and carried out his initial research into nuclear fission there, moving to Britain just before the outbreak of Second World War.  In 1944, he joined the Los Alamos Laboratory in the US as part of the Manhattan Project, which ultimately led to the development of nuclear weapons. But he asked to leave the project before the end of the war and returned to the University of Liverpool.


    Shocked by the use of nuclear weapons against Japan, Rotblat was determined that his research should serve only peaceful ends and devoted himself to studying the medical and biological uses of radiation. In 1949, he became Professor of Physics at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London.


    He later observed that he had not only lived on the same Warsaw street as fellow Polish Nobel laureate Marie Skłodowska-Curie 40 years earlier, but also shared her interest in the medical uses of radioactivity.


    Rotblat became one of the most prominent critics of the nuclear arms race. In 1957, he chaired the first of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, an international organisation that brought together scholars and public figures from both sides of the Iron Curtain and around the world to work towards reducing the danger of armed conflict and to seek solutions to global security threats, particularly those related to nuclear warfare.


    He served as the organisation’s secretary-general from its founding until 1973. He also chaired the Polish Society of Arts and Sciences Abroad (Department of Physics 1952-1972) and then as a Deputy Chairman (1980-1981).


    “Joseph Rotblat was an extraordinary man, whose brilliance as a scientist was matched by the passion and conviction with which he campaigned for his principles and persuaded others to come with him,” said PHS Chairman Dr Marek Stella-Sawicki. “He was a Pole who made an enormous contribution not just to British life but to humanity as a whole.”


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