Document 12: Paul Langevin, "Declaration: For Signature by Scientific Men and Women," 1929. Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Collection, IV-7-21, Archives, University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries, WILPF Papers, 1915-1978 (Microfilm, Reel 104, frame 222).


        Professor Paul Langevin, a celebrated French physicist, was a staunch supporter of WILPF's efforts for disarmament and by extension, their fight to outlaw chemical warfare. He further called for education of the public, a goal which was at the very heart of WILPF’s campaign. Langevin drafted an appeal of his own (in addition to the appeal written by the WILPF Committee Against Scientific Warfare) which he asked colleagues to sign.  He considered the disarmament campaign to be very important and was optimistic about the potential results.


(For signature by scientific men and women)

        Science and technical skill have increased and are increasing every day the power of men to serve useful ends, but also to inflict injury on each other. By an automatic process, in face of which all attempts at partial regulation have failed, scientific development has been utilised from its very beginning to perfect the art of killing.

        The recent war witnessed the birth of new methods of destruction and we are promised in case of a new catastrophe, unprecedented horrors in the way of chemical war and bacteriological war.

        This presents a danger to the human race and to its civilisation which may cause one to doubt the moral value of scientific progress and which even those persons are beginning to perceive who were not revolted by the prospect of another war on the old lines.

        The undersigned consider it their urgent duty to denounce with all their might the frightful danger threatening the whole of humanity and especially the most civilised nations through the preparations for new scientific wars. As there can be no idea of limiting the development of science, it is absolutely essential to put a stop to war.

        It is indeed impossible to check the adaptation of thought to action that life imposes on us and that a profound instinct leads us to develop more and more each day. Those who have devoted their life to it are grieved to see the results of their labour devoted to policies of violence; they should be and desire to be the first to fight against the danger that in spite of themselves they have helped to create.

        Experience has shown that all international conventions whose object is to limit the application of science to war are inoperative because they introduce arbitrary distinctions, because they do not go to the root of the evil and because nothing can prevent a people who believe they are lawfully defending themselves from using all the resources that nature or science have put at their disposal.

        The only efficacious action is to work for the suppression of war, to denounce the futility of seeking security in armaments, to proclaim with the utmost energy the conviction that the establishment of international justice is a question of life or death for the human race.

        Public opinion must be educated by every possible method, and must be convinced that peace must be prepared and justice built up by the common will of all the peoples. Constant pressure must be exercised on the governments to conclude agreements and to create the necessary international machinery.

        For these reasons and with these objects, the undersigned declare that the first duty at the present time is to protest against all war in principle, against the use that it makes of the best results of scientific work and against the influence of prejudices or interests which support the barbarous tradition of employing violence in the settlement of international difficulties.

Professor Paul Langevin                     


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