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Behind the Iron Curtain 29 Chapter II Behind the Iron Curtain Professionally, scientists and mathematicians are strictly internationalminded and guard carefully against any unfriendly measures taken against their colleagues living in hostile foreign countries. — Albert Einstein The molecular revolution goes east Throughout the early Fifties, McCarthyism dominated life in America and held all of Europe in its grip. Republican Senator Joe McCarthy had created a poisonous climate of fear and suspicion. His communist witch-hunting pushed the FBI into spying on citizens, thousands were accused of being communists or communist sympathizers and became the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning before government or private-industry panels, committees and agencies. The atmosphere of suspicion sapped the energies of scientists like Linus Pauling and Robert Oppenheimer among others. Even Jonas Salk was interrogated about the communist sympathies he once harbored in his youth. It was in this dark period that one of the most remarkable collaborations betweenEastandWesttookroot.InJuly1955,BertrandRussell,theBritish mathematician, philosopher, and writer, issued the now famous RussellEinstein Manifesto, cosigned by seven other Nobel laureates. He strongly believed only dialogue could avert a catastrophic thermonuclear war: In the tragic situation which confronts humanity we feel 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. We are speaking on this occasion, not as members of this or that nation, continent or creed but as human beings, members of the species Man, whose continued 30 Cold War Triangle existence is in doubt. The world is full of conflict; and, over­ shadowing all minor conflicts, the titanic struggle between Communism and anti-Communism. Russell was the prime mover behind conferences bringing scientists from East and West together. Cyrus Eaton, the American railroad mogul, was the financier who generously invited the scientists to convene in idyllic places. The first meetings with mostly physicists, and only a few chemists and biologists, took place in the small village of Pugwash, Nova Scotia, where Eaton had grown up. There were no hotels to accommodate the conference participants in Pugwash so Eaton transformed a few of his sleeper trains into a makeshift hotel. Nobody would have guessed from these modest beginnings that the conferences would become such a powerful undercurrent in an era of McCarthyism and Cold War tensions. The Pugwash conferences gave scientists the backbone to cultivate cooperation between East and West. During the coldest periods of the Cold War, when diplomats distrusted eachothermost, Pugwash successfullyestablishedaclimateoftrustamong influentialscientistsfromtheEastandWest.EverytimeColdWartensions increased, the role of the informal East-West backchannel of contacts between scientists became more crucial.1 Although the annual conferences were condemned in the US Senate, both Eisenhower and Khrushchev came to appreciate them.2 Following a Pugwash held in Moscow, scientists, not diplomats, laid the groundwork for a major diplomatic achievement, brokering the first major pact between East and West to limit nuclear tests—the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.3 Yet to this day, the Pugwash movement remains largely unknown to the general public. In 1955 during a Rose Garden ceremony honoring Jonas Salk, President Eisenhower surprised the world when he announced that “he would give the Salk vaccine formula to every country that welcomed the knowledge, including the Soviet Union.”4 It didn’t take long for Soviet scientists to arrive in Washington following Eisenhower’s generous invitation to “study polio and the preparation of the Salk vaccine.” Still reeling from the wounds inflicted by the McCarthy investigators , Jonas Salk declined to cooperate with his Soviet counterparts. Albert Sabin, however, jumped on the occasion. His live virus vaccine Behind the Iron Curtain 31 was ready but had not yet been tested on human beings. His work with a topflight virologist heading the Soviet Polio Research Institute led to the Soviet decision in 1959 to use Sabin’s cherry flavored liquid for the oral vaccination of more than ten million children. The trials were conducted with a discipline akin to a military campaign and became the largest field trials ever in medical history.5 The coercive powers of a police state were certainly part of its success but the field tests were also a signal that cooperation between East and West was not impossible. The head of the Polio Research Institute, Mikhail Chumakov, and his wife were part of the movement to liberate Russian science from Stalinist quackery. Since the 1930s, Stalin’s favorite scientist, Trofim Lysenko, had dominated Russian biology...


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