- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

Spotlight: Paul Doty

Fall 2005

Paul Doty is the founder and director emeritus of the Belfer Center, emeritus member of the Center's Board of Directors, and emeritus professor of public policy at the Kennedy School. However, most of his professional life has been as professor of biochemistry in Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences where he founded the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 1968.

Sixty years ago, in 1945, the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. It was not until 30 years later, in 1974, that the study of "security" became embedded in universities. That year, Ford Foundation President McGeorge Bundy was convinced by Paul Doty that the foundation should support a Harvard Center for Science and International Affairs (now the Belfer Center) and several other security centers around the country. Today, the study of security has grown into "international security." Paul Doty has played a critical role in the field, and his experience provides him with a unique perspective on its growth.

Paul Doty is a scientist. He founded Harvard's Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 1968. He ran a world renowned lab at Harvard for 40 years, supervised research theses of 66 undergraduates and graduates, and worked in his laboratory with 85 post-doctoral fellows, most of whom became professors of biochemistry. He has had a profound impact on his field in a number of ways, not least of which was co-founding the Journal of Polymer Science and the Journal ofMolecular Biology.

Paul Doty's "second" career officially began in 1974 when he founded the Belfer Center- but its origins developed much earlier. Doty's double career, in science and in security, parallels one of his many significant contributions to science-a demonstration that the two strands of a double helix, when separated from each other, can be reunited to reform the original active molecule or new forms of DNA (recombinant DNA)-research that contributed to the Human Genome Project and modern biotechnology.

The seed for Paul Doty's interest in science and security was planted at Columbia University in the early 1940s while he was a graduate student in physical chemistry working on isotope separation. The war was on, Pearl Harbor had been bombed, papers were being published on splitting the atom, and Paul Doty began attending classes outside his field- classes taught by Enrico Fermi, Isadore I.Rabi, Edward Teller, and Harold Urey. "It was all in the air," he says, remembering one day when he got on the elevator "and there was Danish physicist Nils Bohr." Bohr had just escaped from Denmark, "so one just had to put the dots together." It was the beginning of the Manhattan Project-and it was the beginning of Paul Doty's interest in security- and in preventing nuclear war.

In 1957, Paul Doty, then chairman of the Federation of American Scientists, was one of 22 eminent scientists from 10 countries, including the Soviet Union, invited by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein to meet in Pugwash, Nova Scotia, to discuss the threat posed to civilization by the advent of nuclear weapons. The stimulus for this first "Pugwash Conference" was a Manifesto issued in 1955 by Russell and Einstein calling on scientists "of all political persuasions" to assemble and discuss the nuclear weapons threat.

At the Pugwash meeting, Doty made contact with Soviet counterparts and determined that he could help prevent the use of nuclear weapons by working with Soviet scientists outside official channels. During the following years, he made more than 40 trips to the Soviet Union to promote careful examination of the technical aspects related to nuclear arms control and avoiding nuclear war. He became a member of President Kennedy's Science Advisory Committee and helped formulate nuclear arms control proposals. He formed a National Academy of Sciences committee to oversee the exchange of Soviet and American scientists for research purposes and later convinced the Academy to establish the Committee on International Security and Arms Control (CISAC). In 1960 and 1961, he organized two ground-breaking Pugwash Conferences in the Soviet Union and the United States and began a series of summer workshops on arms control at the Aspen Institute in Colorado. In 1964, Doty formed a bilateral Soviet-American group co-chaired by the vice president of the Soviet Academy of Sciences and himself. This group contributed critically to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972, which continued in force until American withdrawal from the treaty in 2002.

The Soviet-American disarmament studies that took place between 1964 and 1975 were "quite a success," Doty says. "This was a window of opportunity in that leading scientists and physicists in Russia were held in high esteem at the time, and that provided a useful ‘back channel.'"

Unfortunately, he says, that is not the case today. "President Putin, like Bush, doesn't think much of science," so there is little interaction between scientists and government in the two countries now. "In that sense, this is a low period," Doty says.

Looking at international security studies as a "tripod" composed of academia, independent centers, and the people who move in and out of government, Doty sees a field that has proliferated rapidly horizontally. He is concerned that, unlike the life sciences, there is a lack of clear professional organization in the field of international security and that this lack of organization may reduce its future impact unless addressed. However, Doty believes that the journal International Security, which he founded in 1975, and is now the most referenced journal in the field, has been of considerable help.

Greater attention should be given to producing promising leadership in international security, Doty believes. He points out two areas of concern. "China, for instance, deserves sustained study with regard to future security, but we have too few experts in that area." He would also like to see increased focus on developing leaders in the science/security area.

"The science link is part of the original strength of the Center and what continues to make it unique," he says. "As we move into the future, it's important to focus on producing leadership that combines the science and political strands of international security studies."

"Paul Doty's dedication and strength of character have had tremendous impact on the life sciences and on international security," says Belfer Center Director Graham Allison. "His work with the Soviet Union during the Cold War was a major factor in keeping that war from becoming hot, and he has continued to demonstrate the vital link between science and security. His vision created the Belfer Center and the questions he asked then are the questions that continue to shape the Center today."

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Spotlight: Paul Doty.” Belfer Center Newsletter (Fall 2005).