Joan Hinton died on June 8 2010 at a hospital in Beijing. She was 88.
“As long as there is war, science will never be free. Are we scientists going to spend our lives in slavery for madmen who want to destroy the world?”
Joan Hinton, who was born in 1921, is an American nuclear physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project, the world’s first nuclear experiment. Shocked by the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, she came to China in 1948 to take part in the Communist Revolution. Instead of making weapons that kill, she has applied all her energy to improving agricultural machinery and dairy farming. Now she is an adviser to a state dairy farm in a suburb of Beijing.
As a young woman, nuclear physicist Joan Hinton (Chinese name Han Chun) took part in the Manhattan Project. When the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan in 1945, Hinton was totally shocked by the destructive force of nuclear weapons. She then protested the governments use of scientific research, and lobbied in Washington as part of the peace movement. However, she was very disappointed at the widespread belief in the USA’s righteous morality and military supremacy. She went to China to join the Communist Revolution in 1948. Labeled as “the Atom Spy that Got Away” in the McCarthy-era media, Hinton claimed that she never worked on nuclear weapons in China. Rather, she helped the Chinese mechanize agriculture. She explained with her unbending social conscience: “I did not want to spend my life killing people, but rather to make people have a better life, not worse.” From being a nuclear physicist to a dairy farmer, Hinton described the turning point in her life as a disillusionment with pure science, and a new belief in communism and internationalism. Hinton and her husband, Erwin Engst, dedicated their lives to building the New China. They lived in cave-dwellings in the early years of her stay in China and worked together in different dairy farms. Making use of the limited local resources, Hinton developed farm tools, such as donkey dump carts and a silage combine. She also designed a milking system, farm machinery and even an irrigation system. Reminiscing about her life, Hinton once said, “I have taken part in two of the greatest things of the 20th century – the development of the atom bomb and the Chinese revolution. Who could ask for more?” From making nuclear bombs to breeding livestock, Hinton demonstrates to us how an organic woman intellectual makes science work for peace and for the people.
Chinese Academy of Agricultural Mechanization Sciences
Eastern Asia | China