University of Connecticut Daily

April 23, 2004

From nuclear ambitions to dreams of peace

Retired Eastern Connecticut State University Professor of peace studies and former chemist Dr. Charles Prewitt discussed his career change from a conservative chemist who worked for DuPont, which included working for two years on the Manhattan Project to develop the first atomic bomb, to a person who opposes all war and military spending during a lecture entitled, "The Bomb Created A Rebel," at Homer Babbidge Library Thursday.

Prewitt was born in 1918 to a poor, conservative family. His father was a laborer who was against trade unions and fought in World War I and supported World War II. Prewitt said he also supported the war and as chemistry graduate student at Louisiana State University he was contacted in 1931 by the military and was given a choice between becoming an infantryman or a chemist working for DuPont. Prewitt took the second choice and eventually found himself and his wife, whom he had met as an undergraduate, at a chemical plant in Oakridge, Tenn., where he started work on the Manhattan Project.

During his two years on the project, Prewitt said he became disillusioned with his work and tried to quit. He said he stayed on the project because he was threatened with imprisonment if he did not.

After World War II, Prewitt said he became convinced of mankind's ability to destroy itself with nuclear weapons and hence left his career in the natural sciences and obtained a doctorate in education. He said he felt humanity could only be saved through the application of expanded knowledge in the social sciences. Prewitt credited his change of opinion about the bomb and military to his wife, Virginia Prewitt.

Prewitt said he has protested the Korean and Vietnam wars and believes there can never be peace on earth until the United Nations becomes more involved in world affairs. He said that his "dream" of world peace could only be achieved by destroying all nuclear weapons and getting all countries to disband their military forces.

Prewitt also discussed the ongoing war in Iraq. He said he did not believe there would be a peaceful solution to the Iraq problem and there might be even more violence as a result of the transfer of power scheduled to take place on June 30.

"I can see a real civil war breaking out there," Prewitt said.

According to Prewitt, global security should be provided by a U.N. peacekeeping force. Prewitt proposed changes to the structure of the U.N. and said more power should be given to the U.N. General Assembly. Resolutions submitted by the General Assembly to the Security Council can currently be vetoed by any of the five permanent members of the council. According to Prewitt, the veto powers are undemocratic and he said he believes the Security Council should be abolished.

Prewitt also said national boundaries and the idea of having separate nations are obstacles to world peace. According to Prewitt, all national boundaries should be abolished and a world government with an international peacekeeping force should be established to oversee the movement of people from one part of the world to another.

The lecture was sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Chair and the Institute of Comparative Human Rights. Senior Michael Sarra said he was impressed with the lecture.

"[It] provides an alternative point of view from what students would normally hear from political leaders," Sarra said.

Amol Mandalaywala, a history graduate student and the teaching assistant for the History 226 course the lecture was a part of, said students can benefit from having a speaker like Prewitt come to campus.

"[It] promotes better education and understanding of these issues," Mandalaywala said.

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