Herbert F. York, 2000


For his contributions to formulating and implementing arms control policy under four Presidents; for his founding direction of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and his leadership in Research and Engineering at the Department of Defense; and for his publications analyzing and explaining these complex issues with clarity and simplicity.


For more than four decades, Dr. Herbert F. York has been at the forefront of efforts to design and deploy a secure and stable nuclear deterrent posture capable of maintaining peace in the short run and, at the same time, to create and promote the arms control agreements necessary to assure peace, security and stability in the long run. In doing so, he has both built and maintained nuclear weapons and contributed to the winding down of the nuclear threat and the international tensions that are entangled with it. One of the hallmarks of Dr. York's career has been his conviction that science and policymaking should be above partisan politics. Dr. York has served in both Republican and Democratic administrations and opposed or supported policies on the basis of his scientific rather than political judgment.

Dr. York's reach goes beyond the halls of government. His work as an educator and author introduced several generations of Americans to the best thinking on the history, science, and politics of nuclear weapons development and arms control. His writings are among his most enduring contributions to society's understanding of peace and security issues. They include (1970); Arms Control (Readings from the Scientific American, with Introductions and Comments (1973); The Advisors: Oppenheimer, Teller and the Superbomb (1976); Making Weapons, Talking Peace: A Physicist's Journey from Hiroshima to Geneva (1987); A Shield in Space? Technology, Politics and the Strategic Defense Initiative, written with S. Lakoff (1989); and Arms and the Physicist (1995).

Dr. York first became involved with nuclear weapons in 1943 when he joined Ernest Lawrence's Radiation Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley, and at the Y-12 plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where he worked on the electromagnetic separation of Uranium 235. He returned to Berkeley to complete his doctoral studies and embark on a promising scientific career by co-discovering the neutral pi meson. He then gave up what, no doubt, would have been a brilliant career in fundamental high-energy experimental physics to lead the California Radiation Laboratory team that was engaged in developing nuclear and thermonuclear weapons. He oversaw the expansion of the Radiation Laboratory to become the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, and in 1952 became its first Director.

In 1957, the Soviet Sputnik caused national alarm over its ramifications for U.S. science and engineering. The early post-Sputnik period was both very active and very confused about just what the United States should do to enhance its technological capability. New massive projects were initiated and existing ones greatly enlarged. The highly visible success of military research and development-nuclear weapons, rocket and jet engines, radar, and so forth-created the illusion that sufficient funding could make virtually any technology possible. It was in this atmosphere that President Eisenhower appointed Dr. York to be one of his science advisors. Eisenhower also created the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), with Dr. York its co-founder and Chief Scientist. Dr. York soon became the first Director of Defense Research and Engineering at the Defense Department.

Dr. York served as Ambassador to the Comprehensive Test Ban Talks from 1979-1981 and as a member of the delegation to the Anti-Satellite Talks in 1978 and 1979.

Few people were able to be involved with nuclear science and engineering as deeply as Dr. York and also work with anti-nuclear activists. Dr. York played a special role in being able to clarify both the benefits and the dangers in nuclear developments so that he was "heard" as a sensible and objective expert to clarify issues without empty rhetoric or self-serving arguments. In 1961, Dr. York resumed his academic career at the University of California at San Diego, where he was the first Chancellor and Professor of Physics. In 1982, he founded and directed the Institute of Global Conflict and Cooperation at the University of California, San Diego. There, issues of international security, arms control, and international conflict are studied, both theoretically and pragmatically.

Herbert Frank York was born in Rochester, New York, in 1921. He earned his BS and MS degrees at the University of Rochester in 1943 and his Ph.D. degree at the University of California in 1949. Among his honors and awards are: Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award of the Department of Energy (1964), Guggenheim Fellowship (1972-73), Szilard Award (1994), the National Science Board's Vannevar Bush Award (2000) and the University of California at Berkeley's Clark Kerr Award (2000), and Honorary Doctorate degrees from Case Western Reserve University, Claremont Graduate University, and the University of San Diego.

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Last modified: 3/18/2013 11:01:20 AM