This summer 2020 marks a sad commemoration: the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. Pierre Papon, who has a book coming out in mid-September on the role of science in the democracies, looks back at this event which saw human beings drop the first atomic bomb, occasioning between 155,000 and 250,000 mainly civilian deaths, depending on the various estimates.
After reminding us of the premonitory writings of H.G. Wells on the discovery and use of an atom bomb, and of the Manhattan Project, which led to the development of nuclear weapons, Papon underscores the reaction both in the scientific community and also from thinkers like Albert Camus to the use of those weapons. He looks back too at the decisions taken by states over the years to restrict the proliferation of nuclear weapons, but many questions remain in that regard about the motivations of — and measures taken by — the nuclear powers to achieve lasting arms control.