19 February 1958
The White House
Dear Mr. President:
I respectfully request that you grant me an appointment in order that I may talk with
you for a short while about the present opinion that scientists hold about the testing
of nuclear weapons, and related questions, and about the petition urging that an international
agreement to stop the testing of nuclear weapons be made, as a first step toward a
more general disarmament.
On 4 June 1957 I sent to you the appeal urging that an international agreement be
made to stop bomb tests that had been signed by 2000 American scientists. During
later months, after a considerable number of scientists in other countries had voluntarily
associated themselves with this appeal, I began to gather more signatures, and on
11 January 1958 I presented the petition to the Secretary General of the United Nations,
together with the names of 9235 scientists, of 44 countries, who had signed the petition.
This petition was a personal enterprise, with no organization involved. The signers
included 36 Nobel Laureates, 101 members of the National Academy of Sciences of the
United States, 35 Fellows of the Royal Society of London, 216 members and correspondents
of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R., and many other distinguished scientists.
I feel that I have been able, after considerable effort, to obtain an understanding
of nuclear weapons and their biological effects. The problem is a difficult one,
involving many branches of science. I am a chemist, and I have done much work also
in fields other than chemistry. Since 1922 I have worked with high-energy radiation.
Much of my work has been in the field of atomic physics. During recent years I have
worked largely on biological and medical problems, including those hereditary diseases
caused by mutated genes that result from radiation exposure. If you wish to have
an assessment of my ability to form a judgment about the complex problem of biological
effects of nuclear weapons, I refer you to the President of the National Academy of
Sciences, Dr. Bronk.
I may mention that I have served the nation in many ways, and that in 1948 I was awarded
the Presidential Medal for Merit.
I know that you consulted with Dr. Edward Teller some months ago. Recent public statements
made by Dr. Teller are so misleading and even erroneous, deviating greatly from those
held by other scientists, as to cause me concern about the reliability of the information
that may have been given to you. It is in part for this reason that I ask for an
appointment with you.
I enclose a copy of my letter of 11 January 1958 to Mr. Hammarskjold, a copy of the
petition to the U.N., and the names of the Nobel laureates, members of the U.S. Academy
of Sciences, Fellows of the Royal Society of London, and members of the U.S.S.R. Academy
of Sciences who signed it.
Linus Pauling :W