John Gofman: Nuclear and Anti-Nuclear Scientist

In this 1981 interview, chemist and physician John Gofman discusses the career arc and personal journey that led him to become a prominent anti-nuclear activist.

| March/April 1981

068 john gofman - interview

John Gofman was by turns thoughtful and vehement during his interview.


John W. Gofman, Ph.D., M.D., is one of America's most prominent critics of nuclear power. He's performed extensive research on the hazards of radiation, given testimony in any number of trials related to atomic power, lectured and participated in debates all across the country, and written several books on the relationship between nuclear energy and public health.  

So it only made sense that, when the folks here at MOTHER EARTH NEWS were looking for a person who could clearly and authoritatively rebut a series of common pro-nuclear arguments, for a proposed article in this magazine, we'd ask Dr. Gofman to do the answering.  

There are, of course, many eloquent spokespersons in the antinuclear movement... but John Gofman is unique among them. The San Francisco-based physician/chemist is both a highly respected scientist (the American College of Cardiology selected him as one of the 25 leading heart disease researchers of the past quarter-century) and a person who speaks about the nuclear power industry with firsthand knowledge of its workings; he was, from 1962 to 1972, an Atomic Energy Commission employee whose very job was to study the effect of radiation on human health. What's more, long before Dr. Gofman became known for his research projects on heart disease and radiation, he was actually a member of the Manhattan Project group that produced the world's first atomic weapon!  

In other words, this experienced scientist is not a Johnny-come-lately to the antinuclear movement. Instead, he's a man who originally supported atomic energy... but who found his views, and his entire life, changed because he held a firm belief in scientific honesty.  

We think that you'll find the story behind that change in John Gofman's life — as related in this edited transcript of his interview with MOTHER EARTH NEWS staffer Pat Stone — to be both significant and moving.  

PLOWBOY: Dr. Gofman, you've often been called the father of the antinuclear movement. Do you consider that an accurate title?

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