Zia Mian Lecture Now Available Online

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The fully transcribed video of Dr. Zia Mian’s lecture, “Out of the Nuclear Shadow: Scientists and the Struggle Against the Bomb,” is now available on the website of the Oregon State University Libraries Special Collections & Archives Research Center.  Mian gave the talk on the occasion of his receipt of the Linus Pauling Legacy Award, presented on April 21, 2014.  Mian was the eighth recipient of this award, granted every other year by the OSU Libraries.

In his lecture, Mian provides an overview of the responsibilities that scientists have historically assumed with respect to nuclear issues, pointing to Linus Pauling and Leó Szilárd as particularly impactful examples for later generations. Moving to contemporary affairs, Mian paints a downbeat picture of current trends in the nuclear realm, noting the United States’ plan to massively modernize its nuclear complex and the continuation of sabre-rattling in nuclear-armed India and Pakistan.

In the midst of this alarming scene, Mian notes that the world’s attention is increasingly moving away from nuclear issues as climate change and other problems of the day capture the news cycle. Mian reiterates the devastating impact that a nuclear conflagration would make upon Earth; worldwide famine and extreme planetary cooling being among the likely outcomes. The scenario is such that Mian, in echoing the Pugwash Conference of 1955, suggests that “those who know the most are the most gloomy.”

Zia Mian directs the Project on Peace and Security in South Asia, at the Program on Science and Global Security. The editor of numerous books, his research and teaching focuses on nuclear weapons and nuclear energy policy, especially in Pakistan and India, and on issues of nuclear disarmament and peace. He has also produced two documentary films, “Pakistan and India Under the Nuclear Shadow” (2001) and “Crossing the Lines: Kashmir, Pakistan, India” (2004). He is Co-Editor of Science & Global Security, an international journal of technical analysis for arms control, disarmament and nonproliferation policy. He is also a member of the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM).

Previously, he has taught at Yale University and Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, and worked at the Union of Concerned Scientists, Cambridge (Mass.), and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Islamabad. He has a Ph. D. in physics from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Our past coverage of Mian’s work and visit – including an exclusive interview conducted by the Pauling Blog – is available here.  Additional information on the history of the Pauling Legacy Award, as well as links to four additional past lectures by Roald Hoffmann, Roger Kornberg, Roderick MacKinnon and John D. Roberts, is available at the award’s homepage.

Scenes from the 2014 Pauling Legacy Award Event

On Monday, April 21st, Dr. Zia Mian became the eighth individual to receive the Linus Pauling Legacy Award, granted every other year to an individual who has achieved in an area once of interest to Linus Pauling.

Mian’s talk, “Out of the Nuclear Shadow: Scientists and the Struggle Against the Bomb,” provided an informative and often sobering view of the history of anti-nuclear activism within the scientific community and the challenges that the world continues to face today as nuclear technologies become more widespread.  Mian’s talk, once transcribed, will be made freely available on the website of the Oregon State University Libraries Special Collections & Archives Research Center in the coming weeks.  We’ll be sure to pass along word as soon as it goes live.

In the meantime, here’s a glimpse of the event, which took place at the Oregon Historical Society Museum in downtown Portland.

An Interview with Zia Mian

Dr. Zia Mian, who will be traveling to Oregon in April to accept the 2014 Linus Pauling Legacy Award, was kind enough to give us a bit of his time not long ago for an interview.  In it he discussed a whole range of topics including the development of his socio-political consciousness, his admiration for Pauling and his thoughts on healing old wounds in South Asia.  The transcript of our conversation is presented below.

For a more technical perspective on Mian’s thinking with particular respect to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, see the embedded video above.  An excellent profile of Mian, published by his home institution, Princeton University, is likewise available here.


Pauling Blog: You studied physics in graduate school. Were you already interested in socio-political issues? Or did you experience an awakening of sorts, as happened to Pauling with Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Zia Mian: I’m of a generation of people that were growing up during the period of the late 1970s and the early 1980s, what has come to be called the Second Cold War, where President Reagan and the United States, and I believe it was Western Europe, moved new nuclear missiles into Western Europe as a response to new Soviet missiles that had been developed. And so there was a great risk of nuclear war again and peace movements across Europe and in the United States became very active. We had some of the largest demonstrations by these groups that had ever been seen in New York and London and other cities. And the presence of such a large and determined and active social movement raises questions for all kinds of people, such as “what do I think about this issue? What does this mean? How does this impact society and what is my role in what’s going on?”

And so as a young physics student it became obvious that nuclear weapons were something that I had to think about and to try and understand what I thought about them and what they might mean. And so as a consequence I think that it wasn’t so much like a calling of having a Hiroshima or Nagasaki type moment, but the existence of a large and determined peace movement raising the issue to people across the world, that this is an issue you have to take seriously and come to a position on. That led me to think about what nuclear weapons meant and how I felt about them.

PB: With Pauling and several other scientists at the beginning of the nuclear age, they could understand the science behind nuclear weapons as well, and that seemed to lend itself toward their activism, in the sense that they could understand how they worked and the amounts of energy they could release. Did that play in for you as well?

ZM: At the beginning of the nuclear age certainly many scientists, including ones who had worked on the Manhattan Project, realized that the public and policy makers needed to understand the new dangers that nuclear weapons and nuclear materials posed to the world. And having a technical background made it easier to understand some of the things that nuclear weapons mean, without having to know secrets. Because the science was sufficiently clear that you could make this understanding of what was going on. What you have to remember is that lots of other people came to a similar understanding about nuclear dangers without being scientists. One thinks of Mahatma Gandhi writing about the danger of nuclear weapons soon after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or the French writer and philosopher Albert Camus or the English writer George Orwell or the American writer Lewis Mumford. All of them, within months or the first year or so after Hiroshima, tried to explain to people that these nuclear weapons posed a profound and unimaginable new danger, without being scientists themselves.

But the scientists—being experts gives you a somewhat privileged position to debate, because people have a tendency to look to scientists as being people who can understand and explain some of the more detailed factual and technical basis of what nuclear weapons and their production and use mean, rather than just talking about the politics of what nuclear weapons mean or the ethics and morality of what nuclear weapons mean. But I can’t emphasize strongly enough that many of the early scientists like Pauling and others, as well as writers like Mumford and Bertrand Russell and Albert Camus and George Orwell who wrote about nuclear weapons, combined both a technical understanding and a political understanding and a moral and ethical sensibility about what these weapons would mean. And it was only by taking them all together that one can see what kind of intervention they made in helping people understand the nuclear danger.

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Zia Mian is the 2014 Pauling Legacy Award Winner

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Happy Linus Pauling Day!  Today marks the 113th anniversary of Pauling’s birth and, as has become tradition here at the Pauling Blog, we celebrate with an announcement: the recipient of the 2014 Linus Pauling Legacy Award is Dr. Zia Mian.

A physicist by training, Mian follows in the Pauling tradition through his deep commitment to helping solve some of the most vexing social issues confronting world society today.  Mian is a research scientist at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security, directing its Project on Peace and Security in South Asia.  His research and teaching focus on nuclear weapons and nuclear energy policy, especially in Pakistan and India, and on issues of nuclear disarmament and peace.

A prolific author and engaging speaker, Mian is co-editor of Science & Global Society, an international journal of technical analysis for arms control, disarmament and nonproliferation policy. He is also a member of the International Panel on Fissile Materials and has edited a number of reports issued by the group. He has likewise helped to produce two documentary films on peace and security in South Asia – “Pakistan and India under the Nuclear Shadow,” (2001) and “Crossing the Lines: Kashmir, Pakistan, India” (2004). A native of Pakistan, Mian earned his Ph. D. in physics from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

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As we continue, throughout 2014, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Linus Pauling’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, Mian’s acceptance of the Pauling Legacy Award would seem to be especially fitting.  Pauling, of course, received his award for his tireless campaign to end nuclear weapons testing.  Half a century later, Mian continues the quest to stem weapons proliferation and secure a more peaceful world.


The Linus Pauling Legacy Award medal.

The Linus Pauling Legacy Award medal.

Sponsored by the Oregon State University Libraries and Press, the Linus Pauling Legacy Award is granted every other year to an individual who has achieved in an area once of interest to Linus Pauling.  As with past recipients, Dr. Mian will deliver a public lecture in Portland, Oregon that is free of charge and open to anyone who is interested. Here are the details of this event:

    • What: “Out of the Nuclear Shadow: Scientists and the Struggle Against the Bomb.” Linus Pauling Legacy Award Lecture by Dr. Zia Mian. Free and open to the public.
    • When: Monday, April 21, 2014; 7:30 PM
    • Where: Oregon Historical Society Museum, Portland, Oregon

For more information see this page, contact the OSU Libraries and Press at 541-737-4633 or email the Special Collections & Archives Research Center at scarc[at]oregonstate[dot]edu

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