For 50 years, Frank von Hippel has been working as a citizen-scientist to reduce the grave dangers to humankind from nuclear-weapon and nuclear-energy programs around the world. In this special collection of edited, illustrated and footnoted interviews, von Hippel describes in vivid personal detail the many policy battles he has taken on, the state of nuclear dangers today, and his hopes for a path forward.
Born into an illustrious scientific family that included his grandfather, Nobel laureate James Franck, a leader of the opposition within the Manhattan Project to the use of nuclear weapons against Japan, von Hippel got his PhD in physics from Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He was inspired by student activists opposed to the Vietnam War to move from teaching physics at Stanford into a career of policy activism based in Princeton University, where he co-founded the Program on Science and Global Security a leading international center for nuclear arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament research. During the 1980s, von Hippel joined the US citizens’ uprising to “freeze” the nuclear arms race.
He describes here going to Moscow to work with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s science advisors to take advantage of the moment to end nuclear testing and begin deep cuts in the Soviet and US nuclear arsenals. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, he worked in the White House to launch programs to help Russia secure its nuclear materials. Now, he is working with experts from over a dozen countries, including China, India, Iran and Pakistan, to end the production and use of plutonium and highly enriched uranium, the key ingredients for nuclear weapons.
With a new nuclear arms race emerging between the US, Russia and China, von Hippel continues to make the case for reducing and ending the enormous dangers posed by nuclear weapons, and is working to recruit and train a new generation of physicists to take up the cause of building a safer, more peaceful world.