How it all began
Ethical Choices made by Scientists:
Albert Einstein developed his famous equation E=mc2 in1905. This equation explains how a vast amount of energy E could be released from a small amount of matter m (c = speed of light).
Einstein did not build the atomic bomb and the detailed engineering needed for its development during the Second World War, did not require the existence of his equation. However, by 1939 Einstein (now living in the US as Nazi Germany had become unsafe for Jews) and other physicists were convinced that the Nazis were on the verge of building their own nuclear bomb. They wrote a letter to President Roosevelt urging him to build the bomb as a deterrent to possible Nazi nuclear aggression.
Einstein himself was convinced that the bomb would never be used – especially never three months after the surrender of Germany.
What ethical questions should scientists consider when their research could be used to develop such horribly destructive weapons?
Many of the scientists who worked on the development of the atomic bomb were swayed by the argument of “proportionate means”. This is the idea that the benefits of using the bomb must outweigh its costs – it must prevent more human suffering than it causes.
Spend some time looking at some of the historical documents which describe how the decision was made to drop the bombs.
Are you convinced that the benefits outweighed the costs?
The Manhattan Project