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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Dawn; Interview with Bertrand Goldschmidt, 1986 [1]

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Bertrand Goldschmidt was a French physicist, the only Frenchman to work on the Manhattan Project. He later became an international authority on nuclear policy. In this interview he recollects his early career with the Curies in the 1930s and reflects on the timing of the discovery of fission and its implications for the war. In 1940, because of anti-semitic laws, he left France for the United States where he hoped to work with Enrico Fermi but was unable to initially, apparently because of restrictions on hiring foreigners. Ironically, the British accepted his services and sent him to Chicago where he was able to collaborate with Fermi after all, and where he was part of the team that first isolated plutonium. He notes Gen. Leslie Groves’ concern that French scientists who had worked on the bomb would go back to France which might be led by a Communist. He notes the bitter opposition of non-American scientists, including himself, to the U.S. decision in 1943 to stop collaboration with allies on nuclear matters. Similarly, he believes France was essentially forced to go it alone by the secrecy of other Western allies. He describes witnessing the Bikini test, which he says was mainly a function of the U.S. Navy seeking to share the “prestige” of the other branches. The use of the bomb on Japan, he recalls, led him to believe world politics would be changed forever.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
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Interview with Bertrand Goldschmidt, 1986 [1]

Series Description

The first atomic explosion in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945, changed the world forever. This series chronicles these changes and the history of a new era. It traces the development of nuclear weapons, the evolution of nuclear strategy, and the politics of a world with the power to destroy itself.

In thirteen one-hour programs that combine historic footage and recent interviews with key American, Soviet, and European participants, the nuclear age unfolds: the origin and evolution of nuclear weapons; the people of the past who have shaped the events of the present; the ideas and issues that political leaders, scientists, and the public at large must confront, and the prospects for the future. Nuclear Age highlights the profound changes in contemporary thinking imposed by the advent of nuclear weapons. Series release date: 1/1989

Program Description

Amid the violence, fear and desperation of World War II, nuclear weapons are created and used for the first time.

“Dawn” traces the development of the first atomic bomb, from 1932 with the ominous rumblings that led to World War II and the ground-breaking scientific experiments that led to the bomb. Atomic physicist Victor Weisskopf explains, “we did not think at all that this business would have any direct connection with politics, or with humanity.” The frantic rush by American scientists who feared the Nazis were ahead of them and the first nuclear explosion in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945 are described by eyewitnesses. Physicist Philip Morrison was ten miles away from the blast and will never forget the heat on his face. “Dawn” concludes with the failure of the first attempts to reach agreement on international control of atomic weapons after the war.



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Great Britain
Fermi, Enrico, 1901-1954
Hydrogen bomb
World War II
Nuclear energy
King, William Lyon Mackenzie, 1874-1950
United States
Joliot-Curie, Frederic
Nuclear weapons
Curie, Marie, 1867-1934
Gaulle, Charles de, 1890-1970
Groves, Leslie Richard
Baruch Plan (1946)
Soviet Union
Attlee, C. R. (Clement Richard), 1883-1967
Nuclear weapons -- Testing
Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972
Szilard, Leo
Nuclear fission
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Goldschmidt, Bertrand (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Dawn; Interview with Bertrand Goldschmidt, 1986 [1],” 03/25/1986, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Dawn; Interview with Bertrand Goldschmidt, 1986 [1].” 03/25/1986. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Dawn; Interview with Bertrand Goldschmidt, 1986 [1]. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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