Hans-Peter Dürr

Awarded 1987


For his profound critique of the strategic defence initiative (SDI) and his work to convert high technology to peaceful uses.

Hans-Peter Dürr (1929-2014) was Director at the Max-Planck-Institute of Physics (Werner-Heisenberg-Institute) and Professor of Physics at the Ludwig Maximilian University, both in Munich, Germany.

Dürr was a quintessential transdisciplinarian. Besides his specialisms of nuclear physics, elementary particles and gravitation, epistemology and philosophy, he was professionally active in science and responsibility and energy policy. Appointed a Scientific Member of the Max-Planck-Society in 1963, he held the chair or vice-chair of the Board through 1971-1995.

Hans-Peter Dürr passed away in 2014 at the age of 84.

Peace in its real sense can never be achieved by military measures or technical fixes...

Hans-Peter Dürr, 1987 Laureate

Since 1979 Dürr spoke and demonstrated against nuclear energy and initiated study groups at various universities on 'soft' energy issues and community energy plans. Later, he also became very concerned about economic, ecological and Third World questions. He was a member of the Board of Greenpeace Germany (1985-91), of the Board and Scientific Committee of the Vienna Internationale Akademie für Zukunftsfragen (since 1990), a member of the International Advisory Council on the Economic Development of Hainan in Harmony with the Natural Environment in China (1990-93). After the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, he co-founded "David against Goliath", protesting against constructing a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Bavaria, Germany.

In the 1980s, Dürr's main campaigning work was pursued under the theme of peace. He became a Board member of the Vereinigung Deutscher Wissenschaftler and a member of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, joining the Council of the latter in 1987. He co-founded the Scientists' Initiative: Responsibility for Peace in 1983, which led to the Scientists' Peace Congress in Mainz attended by 3,300 scientists, and the 'Mainzer Appell', a declaration against further nuclear armament. In 1990 another huge scientists' convention in Göttingen warned against the militarisation of space. Out of these conventions came a series of lectures, which Dürr gave at many German universities.

Dürr was especially active in Non-offensive Defence and his main preoccupation, the American Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI), otherwise known as Star Wars Program. In 1985, he wrote a long article for the magazine 'Der Spiegel' arguing cogently against the feasibility of the SDI concept. And in 1986, he proposed a World Peace Initiative (WPI), on a similar scale to SDI, to solve the problems of the environment, world poverty and economic justice, and problems of peace itself.

The WPI idea was later reborn as the Global Challenges Network, and the monies of the Right Livelihood Award were devoted to furthering it. After the fall of the Berlin wall, Dürr was involved in setting up two organisations to transform 24 ecologically healthy, military-restricted areas along with the former 'iron curtain' into an 'ecological backbone of Europe.

Dürr was elected member of the Club of Rome in 1991, and in 1996 he was a member of the UN Secretary General's International Advisory Group for the Habitat II Conference in Istanbul. The main focus of his latest work was on questions concerning a sustainable, equitable and liveable society, emphasising efficiency and sufficiency in energy use as a point of entry.

In 2005, he co-authored the Potsdam Manifesto and the Potsdam Denkschrift as a follow-up to the Russel-Einstein-Manifesto of 1955. It was signed by a large group of scientists worldwide, including 20 laureates of the Right Livelihood Award.

He received the Elise and Walter Haas International Award 1993 from the University of California. As a member of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, he received the Nobel Peace Price in 1995. In 2002, the Cambridge Biographical Centre proclaimed Dürr International Scientist of the Year and he received an honorary degree from the University of Oldenburg. In 2004 he was awarded the German Federal Cross of Merit.


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