Oral history of British science

Rotblat, Joseph (4 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 4: At the University he tried to make his own apparatus but failed due to lack of capital. Used his time to write doctoral thesis which corresponds to Dr. in Science here. Rivalries between the 2 Polish Universities and the difficulties made for him. But he passed and celebrated in German wine bar. Changes at beginning of 1939. Discovery of fission - explains process. Talks about Liese Meitner, German and Jewish, had to leave Germany and went to Sweden.German 'Hahn' continued her work but did not understand physics of it. Frish understood, worked with Niels Bohr. JR realised neutrons should come out of fission and started to work on this. He published it in Polish but as Wertenstein was away he got no one to translate into English and it was published elsewhere before him. The importance of his discovery: - chain reaction - danger of utilising energy in atom occurred to him, danger of explosion. This may have been an subconscious reason why he did not want to publish. But he realised that German scientists may not have same scruples and did not want Hitler to get those powers. Thanks to Wertenstein he got grant for one year to study abroad and had the choice between Paris and Liverpool with Chadwick. Chose Liverpool, problems of leaving Poland. Left in March 39.

  • 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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