Feld, Bernard Taub, 1919-

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From the description of Reminiscences of Bernard Taub Feld : oral history, 1980. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 309737447

Biography through 1983

Bernard Taub Feld, high-energy nuclear physicist and notable member of the international arms control and disarmament community, was born to Louis and Helen (Taub) Feld on December 21, 1919, in Brooklyn, New York. He received his elementary and secondary education in the Brooklyn public school system and in 1935, at age fifteen, entered the City College of New York. He began his undergraduate studies in history but changed his academic emphasis to physics and was graduated from CCNY in 1939 with the bachelor of science degree. His decision to study physics was influenced by Hyman H. Goldsmith, who later founded with Eugene Rabinowitch the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists .

Manhattan Project

In 1939 Feld began graduate study at Columbia University and was later appointed teaching assistant to Isador I. Rabi and Enrico Fermi. Feld subsequently was given the opportunity to assist Fermi and Visiting Professor Leo Szilard in their efforts to produce a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. In 1941 Feld suspended his graduate studies in order to relocate to the University of Chicago where he continued his association with Szilard and Fermi. On December 2, 1942, the first controlled nuclear chain reaction was achieved at the University of Chicago's Metallurgical Laboratory. In 1943 Feld left Chicago for Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to participate in the design and construction of experimental atomic pile and separation facilities. Within the year, the Oak Ridge Laboratory had manufactured the first milligrams of plutonium from uranium. From Oak Ridge, Feld went to the Los Alamos Laboratory of the University of California and was Assistant Group Leader of Critical Assemblies from 1944 to 1946. At Los Alamos he contributed to the development of the experimental plutonium bomb that was later detonated in the desert at Alamogordo, New Mexico.

Teaching and Professional Activities

After receiving his doctorate from Columbia University, he was appointed instructor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1946. He was promoted to assistant professor in 1948, associate professor in 1952, and professor in 1955. He served as head of the physics department's Division of Nuclear and High-Energy Physics from 1975 to 1980.

During his career, Feld's work focused on experimental and theoretical research in high-energy nuclear physics, particularly theoretical interactions between fundamental particles. Among his significant scientific efforts was his contribution to the development of the Cambridge Electron Accelerator (CEA), a six-billion-electron-volt synchrotron, dedicated September 1962, and jointly owned and operated by MIT and Harvard University. Feld was one of six academic members of the CEA Executive Committee from 1961 to 1966. Among the responsibilities of the committee were the establishment of management policies and the approval of contractual arrangements. From 1961 to 1962 Feld was chairman of the Scientific Subcommittee which evaluated research programs and proposals.

Feld was also active in the administration of the MIT Laboratory of Nuclear Science (LNS), serving as acting director from 1961 to 1962 and member of the LNS Steering Committee from 1975 to 1982. He was committee chairman for the Conference on Photon Interactions of the BeV-Energy Range which was held at MIT on January 26-30, 1963. The international conference was attended by more than 300 physicists who met to discuss the use of high-energy accelerators in the study of atomic nuclei.

Throughout his career, Feld has been engaged as a consultant for governmental and industrial agencies and has served on several national scientific committees. His appointments have included the Committee on High Energy Physics, National Science Foundation, 1956-1960; Consultant to the Physics Department of the Brookhaven National Laboratory, 1947-; and Consultant in the field of theoretical physics, recombination, and magnetohydrodynamics with AVCO Manufacturing Corporation, Research and Development Division, Everett, Massachusetts, 1955-1965.

Outside of MIT he has taught at the University of Rome, where he was a Guggenheim Fellow and visiting professor from 1953 to 1955, and the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN), Geneva, Switzerland, where he was a Ford Foundation Fellow and visiting scientist from 1960 to 1961. In 1966-1967 he was visiting professor at the École Polytechnique in Paris and research associate at the Centre de Recherche, Saclay, France. He also lectured at the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London, England, where he was visiting professor of theoretical physics from 1973 to 1975.

Feld has published extensively in professional journals (see Bibliography) and has written two books: Neutron Physics (published as Volume II, Experimental Nuclear Physics, New York: Wiley and Sons, 1954) and Models of Elementary Particles (Waltham, MA: Blaisdell Publishing Company, 1969). Since 1957 he has been an associate editor of Annals of Physics, a journal presenting original work in all areas of basic physics research. He also was employed as consulting science editor for Blaisdell Publishing Company, a division of Random House, Inc., from 1960 to 1970. As science editor, he acted in an advisory and editorial capacity to develop a series of college level physics textbooks for the publisher.

Arms Control and Disarmament Activities

Feld began his study of arms control and disarmament following the nuclear attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In 1945, during the first six months of his appointment at MIT, he took a leave of absence to join a Washington, DC coalition of former Manhattan Project scientists opposed to military control over nuclear research and weapons development. Working with the Federation of American Scientists, BTF successfully lobbied against the War Department sponsored May-Johnson Bill and for passage of the McMahon Bill which established the civilian-controlled Atomic Energy Commission.

Continuing his association with the Federation of American Scientists, he was elected several times to the Council and served as vice-president from 1962 to 1963. He contributed numerous articles to the journal, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which was founded in 1946 to provide a forum in which members of the scientific community could discuss the social and political implications of their work. Feld was elected to serve on the Bulletin 's Board of Directors in 1968 and has been editor-in-chief since 1976.

With the advent of the Cold War, the need to re-establish a dialogue between the United States and the Soviet Union became imperative. In 1955 Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein appealed to the international scientific community to meet and discuss the issues created by the existence of nuclear weapons. After initial attempts by the Federation of American Scientists to re-establish East-West contact among scientists through written communication, a more effective exchange began in 1957 through the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. (For fuller explanation of the Pugwash movement see Historical note.)

In 1958, at Bertrand Russell's invitation, Feld began his association with the Pugwash Movement. He became increasingly involved through attending annual and semi-annual conferences and contributing to their organization. In 1963 the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS) assumed the responsibility of coordinating American involvement in Pugwash activities through its Committee on Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs (P-COSWA). Feld, appointed committee chairman, received the mandate to arrange American participation in the International Pugwash Conferences, prepare American studies and activities relating to these conferences, and solicit financial support for Pugwash endeavors. Feld remained chairman of the Academy's Committee on P-COSWA until 1973.

He also served as one of three American representatives on the Pugwash Continuing Committee from 1966 to date. The Committee, incorporating members from the United States, the Soviet Union, Eastern and Western Europe, Asia, and Latin America, is responsible for the organization of the International Pugwash Conferences, publications, and maintaining contact with the National Pugwash Groups.

Feld was appointed secretary-general of Pugwash following the retirement of Joseph Rotblat in 1974. In this capacity, Feld not only served as head of the Pugwash organization but was responsible for the implementation of the decisions of the Continuing Committee. At the time of his appointment, Feld was on sabbatical leave at the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London. He maintained an office at the Pugwash headquarters in London until he had exhausted his leave from MIT. He temporarily relocated the Secretariat to his MIT office while he continued to serve as secretary-general until 1977.

The late 1950s and early 1960s witnessed the growth of arms control and national security studies in the United States. Members of the faculty at MIT and Harvard University were actively involved in the development of these fields, participating in innovative programs such as the 1960 American Academy of Arts and Sciences' Summer Study on Arms Control. In 1957 the Greater Boston Branch of the Federation of American Scientists had begun to investigate the technical problems of arms limitation. A year later, the AAAS Council voted to sponsor a project analyzing the problems of arms control and appointed the FAS Disarmament Study Group to act as an ad hoc Academy Committee.

As chairman of the FAS Group, Feld became head of the Academy's Committee on the Technical Problems of Arms Limitation and director of the Committee's 1960 Summer Study on Arms Control. Numerous publications were generated as a result of the Summer Study, attended by approximately fifty political, social, and physical scientists and engineers representing universities and research institutions from across the country. Feld wrote the Introduction to Arms Reduction: Program and Issues (David H. Frisch, ed., Twentieth Century Fund, NY, 1961), in which he described and analyzed the purpose and accomplishments of the Summer Study. He also contributed an article, "Inspection Techniques of Arms Control," to the Fall 1960 issue of the Academy's journal Daedalus, "Arms Control and National Security," in which he discussed various types of inspection and surveillance techniques for controlled and prohibited military projects.

Concurrent with the above activities, Feld was involved in the administration of the Washington- based Council for a Livable World (CLW). Founded by Leo Szilard in 1961, the intent of the Council was to provide financial and intellectual support to United States senatorial candidates who were committed to the objective of nuclear arms control. Feld's administrative involvement with CLW began in 1962 when he was elected council president. He headed the Council until 1973 when he assumed the position of co-chairman and remained in that capacity until 1978. During Feld's eleven-year tenure as president, Senate candidates receiving CLW financial support included George McGovern (D., South Dakota), Walter Mondale (D., Minnesota), and Mark Hatfield (R., Oregon). Also during this period the Council, through its lobbying efforts, contributed to the postponement of congressional appropriations for the Sentinel anti-ballistic missile system, the prohibition of the use of biological weapons, and adoption of the partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963.

Other Activities

The Boston Area Faculty Group on Public Issues was founded in 1961 to provide a forum in which the local academic community could address significant public issues. Feld as a member of the Steering Committee participated in drafting an open letter, published in the New York Times, to President John F. Kennedy, communicating concern over the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. He also co-authored "An Answer to Teller," an article published in the April 14, 1962, Saturday Evening Post responding to a series of articles written by nuclear physicist and disarmament opponent Edward Teller.

Other political groups with which Feld has been affiliated include the Task Force for the Nuclear Test Ban, the Educational Committee to Halt Atomic Weapons, the Universities National Anti- War Fund, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. The latter was the primary sponsoring organization for the MIT-initiated March 4, 1969, research stoppage protesting the United States involvement in the Vietnam conflict and the government's use of scientific and technological knowledge. As a senior faculty member, Feld participated in the organization of the March 4 activities and contributed to a panel discussion addressing the topic "Arms Control, Disarmament and Security." Nationally, between thirty and fifty universities stopped their scientific research and participated in public discussion of the relationship between science and government.

Feld has written and lectured extensively on the issue of arms limitation and edited two books addressing the issue of disarmament: Impact of New Technologies on the Arms Race (with T. Greenwood, G. W. Rathjens, and S. Weinberg, MIT Press, 1971) and The Future of the Sea- Based Deterrent (with K. Tsipis and A. H. Cahn, MIT Press, 1973). He also published a collection of his papers entitled A Voice Crying in the Wilderness: Essays on Science and World Affairs (Pergamon Press, 1979).


Feld retired from MIT in 1990. He died on February 19, 1993, at the age of 73. MIT News Office obituary: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/1993/feld-0224.html

  • 1946 - 1950 : National Research Council, Committee on Nuclear Science, Subcommittee on Neutron Standards
  • 1946 - 1950 : Consultant, Radium Chemical Corp., NYC
  • 1946 - 1950 : Consultant, Nuclear Propulsion of Aircraft Project (NEPA), Oak Ridge
  • 1947 - : Consultant to Physics Department, Brookhaven National Laboratory
  • 1948: Participant, MIT Lexington Project
  • 1948 - 1953 : Consultant, Nuclear Development Corporation of America, White Plains, New York
  • 1953 - 1954 : 1966 - 1967 : John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellow
  • 1953 - 1954 : Visiting Professor of Physics, University of Rome, Italy
  • 1954: Visiting Lecturer, University of Padua, Italy
  • 1955 - 1965 : Consultant, AVCO Manufacturing Corp., Research and Development Division, Everett, Massachusetts
  • 1956: Participant, Summer Symposium on Nuclear Energy, General Atomic Division of General Dynamics Corp., San Diego, California
  • 1956 - 1960 : Consultant, General Atomic Division of General Dynamics Corp., San Diego, California
  • 1956 - 1960 : National Research Council, Committee Advisory to the Office of Ordnance Research
  • 1957 - 1960 : Trustee, Brookhaven National Laboratory
  • 1957 - : Annals of Physics
  • 1958 - 1960 : National Science Foundation, Committee on High-Energy Physics
  • 1960 - 1961 : Visiting Scientist and Ford Foundation Fellow, CERN, Geneva, Switzerland
  • 1960: Director, American Academy of Arts and Sciences Summer Study on Arms Control
  • 1960 - 1970 : Consulting Editor, Blaisdell Publishing Company
  • 1961 - 1967 : Executive Committee, Cambridge Electron Accelerator
  • 1961 - 1973; 1973 : President, Council for a Livable World; Co-Chairman
  • 1962 - 1963 : Vice-Chairman, Federation of American Scientists
  • 1962 - 1973 : Chairman, Committee on "Pugwash" Conferences on Science and World Affairs, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 1965 - 1966 : Chairman, Scientific Committee, Cambridge Electron Accelerator
  • 1966 - 1967 : Visiting Professor of Physics, Ecole Polytechnique, Paris
  • 1966 - 1967 : Visiting Research Associate, Centre de Recherche Nucleaire, Saclay, France
  • 1966 - 1973; 1975 : Member, International Continuing Committee, Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs; Chairman, Executive Committee; Secretary-General
  • 1968 - ; 1976 : Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
  • 1970 - 1972 : Member, National Board of UNAF
  • 1971: Impact of New Technologies on the Arms Race
  • 1972: The Collected Works of Leo Szilard: Scientific Papers
  • 1973: The Future of the Sea-Based Deterrent
  • 1973 - 1975 : Visiting Professor of Theoretical Physics, Imperial College of Science and Technology, London
  • 1977: Pugwash on Self-Reliance
  • 1977 - 1979 : Chairman, Committee on Research Funds, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 1973 - 1975 : Vice-President, Class 1, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 1975 - 1980 : Head, Division of Nuclear and High Energy Physics, MIT Department of Physics
  • 1975: Leo Szilard Award for Physics in the Public Interest, American Physical Society
  • 1975: Public Service Award, Federation of American Scientists

Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs - History through 1983

The decade following the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki witnessed the emergence of a nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union. In the environment of the Cold War, Bertrand Russell issued an appeal in 1955 to members of the international scientific community to "... assemble in conference to appraise the perils that have arisen as a result of the development of weapons of mass destruction..." Albert Einstein and nine other distinguished scientists joined with Russell in signing what became known as the Russell-Einstein Manifesto. With this initiative, a conference was planned, and financing was received from Cleveland industrialist Cyrus Eaton. The first conference was held at Eaton's estate in the small fishing village of Pugwash, Nova Scotia, July 7-10, 1957. The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs have since been held at a variety of international locations on an annual and semi-annual basis. Members of the world scientific community gather in an unofficial capacity to discuss nuclear proliferation and propose measures by which the scientific community can influence governments in reaching international agreements limiting the accumulation and use of nuclear weapons. Since the late 1960s, topics discussed at the Pugwash Conferences have broadened to include environmental pollution, world overpopulation, the energy crisis, and problems of the developing nations.

The Pugwash organization is administered by the Pugwash Council (formerly known as the Pugwash Continuing Committee) whose members are elected by the participants of the International Conferences. A total of twenty-four individuals constitute the Committee: three Americans, three Soviets, five representatives from Third World nations, the two ex-secretary-generals, and the remainder from countries in Eastern and Western Europe. The committee is responsible for the organization of all international Pugwash activities and is headed by the Secretary-General, Dr. Martin M. Kaplan, who maintains offices in London and Geneva.

Since participation in the International Conferences is limited, regional groups have been established to provide a wider forum in which the scientific community can contribute to the discussion of the political, social, and moral implications of science and technology. Approximately thirty National Pugwash Groups are engaged in activities which range from routinely submitting participant nominations for the International Conferences to actively organizing and sponsoring symposia and regional conferences.

In the United States, the National Pugwash Group is under joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. The activities of the American Pugwash Group are directed by the Committee on Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs (P-COSWA) of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. This committee, formed in 1963, is the successor of the Academy's Committee on the Public Responsibilities of Scientists. The American Pugwash Group is particularly active and, in addition to organizing American participation in the International Conferences, has organized several regional symposia and sponsored International Conferences held in the United States.

Additional information concerning the Pugwash Movement may be found in the following publications written by Joseph Rotblat, physicist, radiologist, and past secretary-general of Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs: Pugwash--A History of the Conferences on Science and World Affairs (Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, 1967) and Scientists in the Quest for Peace--A History of the Pugwash Conferences (MIT Press, 1972).

From the guide to the Bernard Taub Feld papers, 1943-1990, (Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Institute Archives and Special Collections)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Erik H. and Joan M. Erikson papers, 1925-1985 (inclusive) 1960-1980 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn Robert R. Wilson papers, 1936-2000. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
creatorOf Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Physics. Letter, 1959, to Lewis Mumford. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf American Physical Society. Meeting (1982 : Washington, D.C.). Symposium of the Forum on Physics and Society [sound recording] : scientists and public opinion: how to influence decision makers on nuclear war related issues; 1982 April 28. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Feld, Bernard Taub. Bernard Taub Feld papers. 1943-1990. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries
creatorOf Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. Notes on physics courses given at Los Alamos, 1943-1946. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Paul A. Freund papers Harvard Law School Library Langdell Hall Cambridge, MA 02138
referencedIn Wilson, Robert R., 1914-2000. Robert R. Wilson papers, 1936-2000. Cornell University Library
creatorOf Feld, Bernard Taub, 1919-. Reminiscences of Bernard Taub Feld : oral history, 1980. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf Smithsonian Videohistory Program. The Manhattan Project oral history interviews [videorecording] / 1987-1990. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Adams, Ruth, 1923-2005 person
associatedWith Albert Einstein Peace Prize Foundation corporateBody
associatedWith American Academy of Arts and Sciences corporateBody
associatedWith American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Committee on the Technical Problems of Arms Limitation corporateBody
associatedWith American Physical Society. Meeting (1982 : Washington, D.C.) corporateBody
associatedWith Cambridge Electron Accelerator corporateBody
associatedWith Council for a Livable World corporateBody
correspondedWith Erikson, Erik H. (Erik Homburger), 1902-1994 person
associatedWith European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) corporateBody
associatedWith Federation of American Scientists corporateBody
associatedWith Fermi, Enrico, 1901-1954 person
associatedWith Ford Foundation corporateBody
associatedWith Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. corporateBody
associatedWith Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Defense and Arms Control Studies Program corporateBody
associatedWith Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Physics corporateBody
associatedWith Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Physics. corporateBody
associatedWith Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Laboratory for Nuclear Science corporateBody
associatedWith Massachusetts Institute of Technology . Undergraduate Policy Seminars corporateBody
associatedWith Paul A. Freund person
associatedWith Rabi, I. I. (Isidor Isaac), 1898-1988 person
associatedWith Rabinowitch, Eugene, 1901- person
associatedWith Rotblat, Joseph, 1908-2005 person
associatedWith Smith, P. K., person
associatedWith Smithsonian Videohistory Program. corporateBody
associatedWith Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. corporateBody
associatedWith Szilard, Gertrud Weiss person
associatedWith Szilard, Leo person
associatedWith Union of Concerned Scientists corporateBody
associatedWith U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. corporateBody
associatedWith Wiesner, Jerome B. (Jerome Bert), 1915-1994 person
associatedWith Wilson, Robert R., 1914-2000. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Arms control
Arms control
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Nuclear disarmament
Nuclear energy
Nuclear facilities
Nuclear nonproliferation
Nuclear warfare
Particles (Nuclear physics)


Birth 1919-12-21

Death 1993-02-19




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