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Wolfgang K. H. “Pief” Panofsky

Wolfgang K. H. Panofsky was born in Berlin, Germany on April 24, 1919, immigrated to the United States in 1934, and became a US citizen in 1942.

Panofsky received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University. After finishing his graduate work at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Luis Alvarez recruited Panofsky for work on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, New Mexico. Panofsky helped design instruments to measure the yield of atomic explosions that were first used in the Trinity test, which the young physicist watched from a B-20 plane on 16 July 1945.

After the war, Panofsky designed the mega electron accelerator at the Stanford Linear Accelerator

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Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues

Center (SLAC) at Stanford University and served as Director of SLAC from 1961-1984. Panofsky also held teaching positions at the University of California, Berkley and Stanford University. He served as a senior advisor on nuclear policy to US Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter.

Panofsky is the recipient of prestigious awards including the E. O. Lawrence Memorial Award (1961), the National Medal of Science (1961), and the Enrico Fermi Award (1979).

Panofsky is Professor and Director Emeritus of the Stanford University Linear Accelerator Center. He now speaks out against the production of nuclear weapons, and views nuclear weapons as detrimental to national and international security:

Throughout human history proliferation of any new technology for either peace or war – be it fire, gun powder, steel fabrication, electronics, or whatever – has never been stopped, but in response to Trinity we must stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. But how can we accomplish this? Treaties and other international agreements have been very successful in slowing proliferation, but in the long run each sovereign state on this globe must be persuaded that its National Security is better served without possessing nuclear weapons than with them. It also requires each state now possessing nuclear weapons to examine critically whether their stockpiles of these weapons and of the critical materials to make them are truly consistent with their National Security – not to meet short range contingencies but to serve the long range true security of the nation. But above all the emergence of nuclear weapons underscores the need to emphasize nonviolent means for settling international conflicts. Ignoring the physical reality of nuclear weapons demonstrated at Trinity or replacing or distorting scientific facts by policy or ideology results in grave peril to the nation.