On Bombs, Memory, and Survival:
A Scientist Recalls Hiroshima and Nagasaki

by Gene D. Robertson






Recent press stories on the 50th anniversary of the first use of atomic bombs referred to Albert Einstein's statement: "Since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, everything has changed, except men's thinking."

Many of us who have experimented with the bombs were forced by their horrifying effects to change our thinking. This was illustrated by the letter below. I wrote it during the first series of atomic bomb tests at Eniwetok Atoll, while conducting experiments at a site in the Marshall Islands.

I had no idea the letter had been kept until my grandson (Tom's son) recently brought it to my attention. This and later observations of the next dozen tests convinced me that Einstein was right: The strong, the smart, and the powerful must change their thinking.

Gene D. Robertson

Autumn, 1995



    April 24, 1948  


Dear Tom,

Today is a big day in your life, your first birthday. It is a day you won't remember in later years, but one that your mother and myself will always remember. In a way, it is sad that a man's first birthday is so easily forgotten. All of us, as individuals and as a society, so easily forget. In the wild struggle for survival in this jungle called civilization, we forget the things that really count. We forget the tenderness of a mother's love, the joy of laughter, the pleasures of the sky. On your first birthday, everyone is your friend, your trust is unbounded. Suspicion and fear have no meaning in your life.

Then comes the change, the realization that we live in a world that is not governed by a moral code based on love and trust and friendship, but one whose ethical standard, on the surface, is designed to protect the weak from the strong, the righteous from the evil, the just from the hypocrite. Yet early in your life, you will realize, as all men do, even though they try to fool themselves, that the surface is false.

Beneath that surface, we see that the world, for the most part, is controlled by the strong. We become cynical in the realization that, in many cases, the strong are not the just or the unselfish. The meek shall inherit the earth, yes; we ask, but when? The answer to that lies with the men who are strong. The meek shall inherit the earth when the strong will it to them.

For the first time in history, the strong have the means to destroy the weak. It is now the responsibility of men who are strong to change their standards of action, to think more of the things that were important on their first birthdays, and less of the principle of survival of the fittest.

It is my hope, my son, that you will be one of the strong, and that in your humility, you may will your share of the earth to the meek.







  "On Bombs, Memory, and Survial: A Scientist Recalls Hiroshima and Nagasaki" ©1995, 2001 by Gene D. Robertson
GENE D. ROBERTSON was educated at the University of Texas, and went on to do graduate work at MIT. After graduating from Texas, he served in the U.S. Navy until the end of the Korean War. For thirty-six years, he was Director of Research and Development at Magnavox in Indiana, and also spent two years at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey. He currently does a little consulting, but considers himself retired. After six years of practice, he is starting to get the hang of it. He has six children and ten grandchildren.



 Original Graphic Image © 2001 by Jim Davis Rosenthal



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This page last updated 28 September 2001