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Dr. Helen Mary Caldicott





Year of Birth / Death

b. 1938


Medical School

University of Adelaide Medical School


Geography

LOCATION
Massachusetts
LOCATION
California
LOCATION
Australia


Career Path

Pediatric medicine
Dr. Helen Mary Caldicott



Milestones

YEAR
1978
ACHIEVEMENT
Dr. Caldicott founded Physicians for Social Responsibility and served as its first president until 1983, when she was named President Emeritus.
YEAR
1980
ACHIEVEMENT
Dr. Caldicott founded Women's Action for Nuclear Disarmament (WAND).
YEAR
2001
ACHIEVEMENT
Dr. Caldicott founded the Nuclear Policy Research Institute (NPRI) and served as its first president.


Inspiration

I decided at 11 years of age to become a doctor instead of a teacher because I could help more people that way. I also loved biology.



Biography

Dr. Helen Caldicott resigned from Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital Medical Center in Boston so that she could devote herself to Physicians for Social Responsibility. As she said at the time, "Why am I treating these children when they might all be killed?" Since 1971 she has waged a vigorous international campaign to educate the public about the medical hazards of the nuclear age and the changes necessary to stop environmental destruction and nuclear war.

Helen Caldicott was born in 1938 in Melbourne, Australia, and began her career as a pediatrician in Adelaide, where she founded a cystic fibrosis clinic at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in 1975. Stirred by the French government's atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons in the South Pacific and the potential human and environmental consequences, she became involved in antinuclear activism in 1971, leading demonstrations and boycotts. In 1975, she worked with Australian trade unions to educate their members about the medical dangers of the nuclear fuel cycle, and particularly uranium mining. With her family, Dr. Caldicott moved to the United States in 1977, where she became an instructor in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She specialized in cystic fibrosis and also served on the staff of the Children's Hospital Medical Center, in Boston.

Her antinuclear activities continued, and in 1978 she resuscitated the organization Physicians for Social Responsibility, which got a dramatic boost in membership when her efforts coincided with the March 1978 accident at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island nuclear power plant. She also published Nuclear Madness: What You Can Do! in 1979, and in 1980 resigned her medical posts to work full time on the prevention of nuclear war. In 1983, she went on to found or aid other antinuclear organizations around the world, including the Women's Action for Nuclear Disarmament (WAND).

Dr. Helen Caldicott has received many prizes and awards for her work, including nineteen honorary degrees. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling. The umbrella organization International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War, which included many antinuclear groups, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985, but, as Dr. Caldicott said, "I didn't think anyone deserved Nobel Prizes: we hadn't eradicated any weapons. Our work was just starting." She has written for numerous publications, authored five books, and has been the subject of several documentary films, including Eight Minutes to Midnight, nominated for an Academy Award in 1982, and If You Love This Planet, which won the Academy Award for best documentary in 1983. Her latest book is The New Nuclear Danger: George Bush's Military Industrial Complex. She divides her time between Australia and the United States, where she is the president of The Nuclear Policy Research Institute, based in California.



Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

I had no obstacle, I won a commonwealth scholarship and had 6 years of medical school free, and I loved it all.

How do I make a difference?

I established the cystic fibrosis clinic at the Adelaide Childrens Hospital in 1975, which has the best longevity results in Australia, and I used my medical degree to wage a 30-year war against nuclear power and nuclear weapons. While on the faculty of Harvard Medical School I founded Physicians for Social Responsibility and recruited most of the physicians in the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which won the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize. Together we helped to end the Cold War.

Who was my mentor?

My mentors were Robin Hood, my mother, my headmistress in secondary school, Bertrand Russell, and Germaine Greer.


National Library of Medicine