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.