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Einstein/Russell - "weapons of mass destruction"

Posted by Paul Guthrie on July 15, 2000

In Reply to: Query: weapons of mass destruction posted by Paul Guthrie on July 15, 2000

: : To readers of this list:

: : I am interested in the origins of the phrase
: : "weapons of mass destruction." Does anyone
: : have any idea of its earliest usage, or
: : where I might look for info?

: : Thanks very much.
: : Nina

: I'd also be interested to find out who coined this phrase. Doing a search in Altavista the earliest references I could find are:
: 1. 1977 - a paper entitled "Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Environment" by A.H. Westing.
: 2. A folder entitled "Weapons of Mass Destruction" being an archive of activities conducted by a peace movement group called SANE between 1968-1975. In this case the title may have came after the fact. (

Upon doing a bit more searching it appears likely that Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein may have originated the phrase in a co-authored document known as the Pugwash Manifesto, issued in July 1955. The document begins

"In the tragic situation which confronts humanity, we feel that scientists should assemble in conference to appraise the perils that have arisen as a result of the development of weapons of mass destruction, and to discuss a resolution in the spirit of the appended draft."

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