1. Notre Dame’s Nuclear History
Notre Dame physicists contributed to the construction of the first atomic bomb. Notre Dame was home to electrostatic accelerators during the WWII years. While other US labs were accelerating protons, the Notre Dame lab focused on electrons. In 1939, Notre Dame scientists became the first to show electron bombardment could disintegrate an atom. A second accelerator was built in Science Hall (now LaFortune Student Center!) in 1941. With the start of World War II, the United States government quickly commandeered this new accelerator for experiments with the Manhattan Project developing the atomic bomb.
The fourth accelerator at ND holds a special place in the Physics department’s history: from 1942-1945, its operation came under the direction of the Manhattan District Project, as part of the United State’s efforts to create the first atomic bomb. The experiments run on the Van de Graaff accelerator were key to the development of the bomb.
2. Our Catholic Mission
“There is no reason whatever that would justify the indiscriminate killing of a hundred million innocent people. That is simply unthinkable. I think in our time there is simply no moral question more complicated, more important, more vital to every human being on earth, than the nuclear threat to humanity.” –Rev. Theodore Hesburgh
The University of Notre Dame is a Catholic academic community of higher learning, animated from its origins by the Congregation of Holy Cross. The University is dedicated to the pursuit and sharing of truth for its own sake. As a Catholic university, one of its distinctive goals is to provide a forum where, through free inquiry and open discussion, the various lines of Catholic thought may intersect with all the forms of knowledge found in the arts, sciences, professions, and every other area of human scholarship and creativity.
Support for nuclear disarmament falls in line with this Catholic identity; the indiscriminate effects of nuclear weapons are incompatible with the Catholic belief of sanctity in life. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has called for the elimination of nuclear weapons since 1983, and individual statements have been issued by Catholic figures such as Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II.
3. David Cortright
The presence of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at ND has provided Global Zero Notre Dame with the unique opportunity of having a former leader in the nuclear freeze movement serve as a club adviser. Professor David Cortright is director of Policy Studies at the Kroc Institute, and is author of the book Towards Nuclear Zero. In 1978, Cortright was named executive director of SANE, the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, which under his leadership grew from 4,000 to 150,000 members and became the largest disarmament organization in the United States. He also was actively involved in the nuclear freeze movement of the 1980s.
David Cortright’s blog often covers the topic of nuclear disarmament. On campus, Professor Cortright serves as an adviser for nuclear disarmament research projects and Global Zero club activities.