Senator John Heinz

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The Heinz Awards

2005

Sidney Drell

Sidney Drell receives the Heinz Award for Public Policy for his decades-long contributions toward reducing the threat of nuclear catastrophe while ensuring the nation's security and military pre-eminence.

A theoretical physicist, educator and authority in the arena of arms control, Dr. Drell has provided wise and firm counsel for more than 40 years. His tireless and effective leadership has helped advance the United States' efforts to reduce the danger and proliferation of nuclear weapons, without ever compromising the nation's defense.

In addition to his academic career at Stanford University doing pioneering research in elementary particle physics, Dr. Drell has been a ubiquitous presence in the debate over major defense issues. He has served on countless advisory panels to Congress, the U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy and the Central Intelligence Agency and is a member of an elite cadre of scientists who advise the government on technical and highly classified national security matters. He is currently a professor emeritus at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, having retired as its deputy director in 1998, and is a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution.

As a scientist, Dr. Drell's contributions through the years have been varied. He helped fix bugs in the nation's first reconnaissance satellite, Corona; helped develop verification methods for the world's first nuclear arms control treaty, and was a leading scientific critic of the ballistic missile defense system during the 1980s.

Dr. Drell is a founding and still-active member of JASON, a prestigious advisory panel of academic scientists on various issues related to national security. Ten years ago, when the nation was faced with the debate over whether weapons labs should be able to conduct underground nuclear weapons explosions in order to assure that the warheads were safe and reliable, he led a JASON study that concluded that nuclear testing was not necessary to assure the effectiveness and safety of weapons. Only last year, his intellectual arguments in opposing a new nuclear weapon (the so-called "bunker buster") helped provide the rationale for removing much of the proposed funding of the weapon from the omnibus budget bill.

In mentoring other scientists through the years, Dr. Drell has urged each of them to analyze the public policy implications of advances in their field of work. He has also mentored many scholars in public policy and arms control, and urged them to ground their policy work in underlying technical realities.

With unparalleled expertise and a steady, reasoned point of view, Dr. Sidney Drell has had a profound influence on American policymakers throughout the Cold War and beyond. His contributions have helped reduce the threat of nuclear calamity and have made the world a safer place in which to live.

Note: This profile is excerpted from the commemorative brochure published at the time of the awards' presentation.


UPDATES SINCE RECEIVING THE HEINZ AWARD

February 2013 -Physicist, Sidney Drell, receives the National Medal of Science for his work both on quantum electrodynamics and policy issues dealing with the threat of nuclear weapons. - Stanford Report

October 2008 - Sidney Drell inducted into American Academy of Arts and Sciences' 228th class of Fellows, an honor that celebrates cutting edge research and scholarship, artistic accomplishment and exemplary service to society. - American Academy of Arts and Sciences

April 2005 - Drell and Ambassador Goodby release a study that concerns the reality and necessity of the United States nuclear program. In the report, the men "calculated the actual nuclear needs of the U.S.," according to the administration's figures, which involves looking at and treating other countries as "potential enemy states". The study concludes that even with a cautious estimate, the U.S. nuclear arsenal is greater than it needs to be. - The Toronto Star

Speech

5/24/2005 - Acceptance Speech

Thank you, Teresa Heinz. For me this is a truly a tremendous honor. I am particularly honored when I consider the founding principles and the stated criteria for this award; and when I consider that this award celebrates the commitment and the record of the late Senator John Heinz as a fighter throughout his public career for principles of great importance to this nation and to the entire world - principles that are currently being advanced with intense commitment by Teresa Heinz, and with which I closely associate myself.

Fundamental science is a voyage through uncharted seas to unknown shores. But inevitably its advances spawn new technologies. They can be enormously beneficial for the human condition, and most have been. But they also have the potential for creating grave new dangers if misapplied. This presents societies with policy choices that are important and often very difficult.

I believe that the scientific community has an obligation to use its special insights to assist society to make wise choices in applying new technologies. This conviction led to my involvement in addressing profound public policy and national security implications of nuclear weapons, now that we must live or die with these monstrous creations. I loved my physics research, but I simply could not ignore the cold war nightmare of our civilization reduced to rubble by a conflict waged with nuclear bombs that are tens of millions of times more destructive than their predecessors.

The cold war has officially ended, but grave dangers remain. There still exists tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. Fear of an all out holocaust may have been sidelined at present, but a serious threat remains that these weapons, these most dangerous weapons, will be acquired by somehow by the most dangerous states or terrorists. Can, or will, we preserve a nonproliferation regime that over the past 60 years has succeeded in limiting the number of nuclear weapons nations to handful? That seems hardly possible if the United States insists it needs a new generation of nuclear weapons for whatever reasons - and to me they are not clear - while at the same time the other 186 treaty signatories are told they don't need them and can't have them. And if the nonproliferation regime collapses, what will happen to the 60-year old norm of their non-use since Hiroshima and Nagasaki? We still face major challenges.

There is work for us to do - much. I am very pleased that my past efforts to reduce nuclear danger have been judged worthy of this award. And I can assure you that I will continue those efforts.

Thank you.
Sidney Drell
Sidney Drell