Volumes of The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell

A Hypertextual Draft Edition of a Paper in Volume 24

Table of Contents

+ Annotation
+ Textual Notes
+ Bibliographical Index
+ “The Bomb and Civilization” (1945)


  • Atoms In The ABC of Atoms (1923a), pp. 9–10, Russell writes in much the same detail and with the same figures about the minuteness of atoms. He also predicted, of nuclear research, that “It is probable that it will ultimately be used for making more deadly explosives and projectiles than any yet invented” (1923a, 11; quoted by Wood 1957, 152).
  • Rutherford Ernest Rutherford (1871–1937), New Zealand-born British physicist. He was Professor of Physics at McGill University in Montreal from 1898 to 1907, when he left for Manchester. In 1919 he became director of the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. He won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1908.
  • more powerful process O.R. Frisch and Lise Meitner concluded that the results of experiments done by the German chemist, Otto Hahn, in December 1938 could only have been obtained as the result of nuclear fission. Frisch verified their assumption with experiments done in Copenhagen in January 1939.
  • Germans on the one side, and the British and Americans German research was led by Werner Heisenberg. The British and Americans at first worked separately but during the Quebec Conference of August 1943 agreed to work together.
  • foreseen for over forty years Wittner 1993 discusses H.G. Wells’ The World Set Free (1914), which portrays a war fought with nuclear weapons.
  • Bohr Niels Bohr (1885–1962), Danish physicist, worked with Rutherford at Manchester before returning to Denmark. He spent World War II in the United States.
  • Heisenberg Werner Karl Heisenberg (1901–1976), German physicist. With Max Born, he worked in quantum mechanics, proposing the uncertainty principle in the 1920s. He won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1932. Russell got to know him in Copenhagen in 1935 (Stevenson 2011, 121n.1), and made his acquaintance again at a meeting on 3 March 1948 at the Master’s Lodge, Christ’s College, Cambridge.
  • Schrödinger Erwin Schrödinger (1887–1961), Austrian physicist. He won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1933 and left Germany for Oxford that same year. He spent World War II in Dublin. Russell and Schrödinger later corresponded.
  • surrender or by extermination. Emperor Hirohito decided to surrender on 10 August 1945, but the Japanese military did not agree to do so until 14 August. See Weintraub 1995, Chap. 33.
  • month ago This was a reasonable belief at the time, since contested. In early July 1945 Russia had as yet no Far Eastern military presence to speak of but was very strong in Eastern Europe, Austria and East Germany. The United States was rapidly defeating the Japanese forces, except on the home islands, and was redirecting its troops from Europe to the planned invasion of Japan. Both had reached a peak of conventional weapons production. Thus in all factors considered together, they might have seemed equal in “warlike strength” before the explosion of America’s plutonium test bomb on 16 July 1945. It was the distribution of that strength that was very unequal.
  • make these bombs for themselves The U.S. Atomic Energy Act (1946; in effect 1 Jan. 1947) restricted the exchange of information on atomic energy, thus reducing Anglo-American cooperation, even though Roosevelt and Churchill had agreed on it. On 8 January 1947 Attlee and his cabinet secretly authorized the manufacture of a British atomic bomb. The first British atomic test was on 3 October 1952. The Soviets exploded their first atomic bomb on 29 August 1949. They had been working separately on a bomb and accelerated their programme after Potsdam.
  • control of the international authority The Atomic Development Authority. See Papers 70, B85; 73, C48.02; and 74, C47.12; where Russell discusses this. See also a previous annotation [in Volume 24] to “Control of Atomic Energy” where the Lilienthal plan is explained.
  • League of Nations Although the United Nations did not come into existence until 24 October 1945, the founding San Francisco Conference had been over since 25 June and the Charter signed on the 26th. Russell, critical of the veto power on the Security Council, appears here to dismiss the U.N.

Textual Notes

The links in the textual notes are to the green reading from Russell’s text as it appears in the first line of the display when the link is followed.

The manuscript (“CT”), titled “The Atomic Bomb”, is in the Emrys Hughes papers, National Library of Scotland (RA Rec. Acq. 840). It is foliated 1–8, measures [ask Scotland], and is written in ink. An editorial hand rewrote several of Russell’s words, in decipherment for the compositor. The same hand added fifteen paragraph breaks, which are ignored here. “45” is the publication in the Glasgow Forward, 39, no. 33 (18 Aug. 1945): 1, 3. It has six section heads, also ignored here as not authorial.

Bibliographical Index

Instead of page numbers, links are provided to the references to these citations.

  • Dower, John W., 1999. Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II. New York: W.W. Norton.
    Referred to: Headnote
  • Russell, Bertrand, 1923a. The ABC of Atoms. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner. (B&R A45)
    Referred to: atoms
  • Russell, Bertrand, 1949a. “The Bomb: Can Disaster Be Averted?”. Unpublished ms. RA1 220.019200.
    Referred to: The Bomb: Can
  • Stevenson, Michael D., 2011. “ ‘No Poverty, Much Comfort, Little Wealth’: Bertrand Russell’s 1935 Scandinavian Tour”. Russell, 31 (2011): 101–40.
    Referred to: Annotation
  • Weintraub, Stanley, 1995. The Last Great Victory: The End of World War II July/August 1945. New York: Dutton.
    Referred to: Headnote, surrender
  • Wells, H.G., 1914. “The War That Will End War”. The Daily News and Leader. London, 14 Aug.: p. 4.
    Referred to: Annotation
  • Wittner, Lawrence S., 1993. The Struggle against the Bomb. Vol. I: One World or None: A History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement through 1953. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.
    Referred to: Headnote, Wittner
  • Wood, Alan, 1957. Bertrand Russell, the Passionate Sceptic. London: George Allen & Unwin. (Russell’s Library)
    Referred to: atoms

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Page maintained by K. Blackwell. Last updated 15 January 2014.
Russell Keyword: alembics