Sending a message of protest against nuclear tests, a Nobel committee awarded its 1995 peace prize Friday to British physicist Joseph Rotblat and the group he helped found to rid the world of atomic arms.
The committee cited Rotblat, 86, and the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs for their efforts to "diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics and in the longer run to eliminate such arms."They have worked to get scientists to "take responsibility for their inventions," out of a "desire to see all nuclear arms destroyed and, ultimately, in a vision of other solutions to international disputes than war," the Nobel citation read.
"When I woke up this morning, I didn't expect to become such a celebrity," a smiling Rotblat told reporters in London. "I was over-whelmed and I still am."
"I see this honor not for me personally but rather for the small group of scientists who have been working for 40 years to try to save the world, often against the world's wish," he said.
"We hope that in the long run what they are doing will prevent the biggest catastrophe that can happen to mankind these days."
The Norwegian Nobel committee noted that it awarded the $1 million prize to Rotblat and his group 50 years after the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. The Nobel Prize committee chairman also condemned France and China for continuing to test nuclear weapons.
"One of the reasons for the prize is a sort of protest against testing of nuclear weapons and nuclear arms in general," committee chairman Francis Sejersted said."This is also a message to all the world's nuclear powers," he said. "Of course it's more current this year, among things, because of the new (French) nuclear tests in the Pacific."
Jacques Rummelhardt, a spokesman for the French foreign ministry, defended France's tests.
"France is very much in favor of disarmament and the elimination of all weapons, including nuclear weapons," Rummelhardt told Associated Press Television. "But this is possible only when security is assured."
The peace prize was the second Nobel this year to send a direct political statement. On Wednesday, two Americans and a Dutchman won the chemistry prize for alerting the world about ozone depletion.
Rotblat, a professor emeritus of physics at the University of London, is president of the Pugwash Movement and the most important figure in the conferences' work, the citation said.
He was the only scientist to resign from the Manhattan Project before it developed the first atomic bomb, after it became clear Germany was not developing a nuclear weapon.
At his news conference Friday, Rotblat said he believes that "thanks partly to the efforts of Pugwash" the arms race has ended. He said he hoped the award will help the group continue its fight against weapons of mass destruction.
"I hope that more scientists will now be encouraged to think really seriously about the social impact of their work," he said.
On July 9, 1955, Rotblat and 10 other scientists including Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Frederic Joliot-Curie and 1962 Nobel peace laureate Linus Pauling, issued a manifesto in London declaring that researchers must take responsibility for their creations, such as the atomic bomb.
"The manifesto laid the foundation for the Pugwash Conferences," the citation said.
"The conferences . . . have underlined the catastrophic consequences of the use of the new weapons," it said.
The anti-nuclear group, based in London, was founded in 1957 in Pugwash, Nova Scotia. Pugwash takes its name from the Indian word "pagwechk," which means "shallow water" or "shoal."
Former President Jimmy Carter had "nothing but congratulations" for the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize after he was passed over for at least the sixth time. Returning to the Carter Center in Atlanta from an early morning jog with his wife, Rosalynn, he said: "I'm sure the Nobel committee had all the facts and made the right decision. I have nothing but congratulations for the ones who did win. I also know the importance of nuclear threat to the world. I understand that was a major thrust of the award."