Oral history of British science

Rotblat, Joseph (1 of 40). National Life Stories Collection: General

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  • Interviewees

    Rotblat, Joseph, 1908-2005 (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Thompson, Katherine (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: Joseph Rotblat [JR] did not want to talk about early childhood. Starting talk by description of effect of World War one on JR's family from comparative wealth to poverty. He started in a school where he could learn a profession - in Warsaw. School run by the Jewish Community. He chose electrical engineering. More about his early learning possibilities. As he was gifted he was allowed to catalogue books in the library which gave him the chance to read and learn. He got diploma after two and a half years and started to be apprenticed to an electrician. He gives reasons why he hated it and wanted independence. He started on his own together with schoolfriend. Explains how he started - electric lighting needed repair work, gradually got involved in installations in new buildings. Examples of difficulties and dangers and his understanding of crystal radios. By now able to help support parents. He was fascinated by science, read H.G. Wells and others, particularly liked physics, also interest in medicine. No chance to go to University without 'Matura' examination so decided to do it externally, taught himself - in 1929 he heard about Warsaw Institute with evening lectures where 'Matura' was not necessary. JR describes this institution and its foundation without government support and no racial restrictions. It gave diplomas, but that was not equivalent to University degree and therefore restrictions to jobs. But JR decided to try for diploma in Physics.

  • Description

    Nobel Peace Prize-winner and nuclear physicist Joseph Rotblat in conversation about his life and work. A key figure in the development of the atomic bomb, he left the US government's Manhattan Project once it became apparent that Nazi Germany did not have the capability to build a bomb of its own.

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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