Was there a peaceful use for Atomic energy? Or was that it?
Was there a peaceful use for Atomic energy? Or was that it?

Chicago University Roundtable: Atomic Force: It’s Meaning for Mankind – August 12, 1945 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection

As the world waited for the official end of World War 2, and as the effects of the Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki began to settle in, the question many were asking was “Can this Atomic force be useful for mankind”?

The long-term effect of the bombings were still unknown at the time of this broadcast, but a panel of scientists was quickly assembled for this special broadcast of The Chicago University Roundtable to discuss that question. The scientists in question were from The University of Chicago, where initial research and development of the Atomic bomb took place.

Was there a peaceful side of this discovery? And if so, how was it going to be utilized? And ultimately; “Was the Atomic Bomb good or bad for the world”? Robert Maynard Hutchins, Chancellor of Chicago University. Maynard G. Gustafson, dean of Faculties at Chicago University, and William F. Ogburn, Sociologist were called to discuss those questions.

The answers were interesting. Gustavson echoed a sentiment from many of the developers of the bomb; he hoped they had not put dynamite in the hands of children. Ogburn was convinced it ended the war quickly, and quoted a newspaper report saying the Japanese Minister to Sweden felt the bomb brought about a plea for peace.

But even on August 12th there was every indication that using the bomb was unnecessary and that, as a result, the U.S. had lost its moral prestige in the world. It was also suggested a better approach would have been dropping the bomb on an uninhabited part of Japan, as a demonstration of what could happen if Japan continued the war.

The arguments for and against are interesting, and considering how they were being raised days, not months or years after the bombings, gives some indication there were misgivings about it’s use as a weapon and fears we had unleashed something we ultimately would not be able to control even before they had been used.

A fascinating discussion – one which continues to go on, decades after.

Here is that complete broadcast from August 12, 1945.

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