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Foredrag Gæsteforelæsning

15.05.2024   kl. 11:15 - 12:15

David Woolner - Franklin Roosevelt, Niels Bohr, and the Atomic Bomb – some unanswered questions about a dying president in his last 100 days

On April 12, 1945, a stunned world learned that Franklin D. Roosevelt, the leader who had brought the United States through the two great crises of the twentieth century, was dead. Responding to this shocking development, the Danish physicist, Niels Bohr, expressed the view that it seemed impossible to believe that “the great man, upon whom more than anyone else, the hopes of humanity were centered” was gone. What Bohr and the rest of the public did not realize, of course, was that by the spring of 1945 Franklin Roosevelt was a dying man. What’s more, his sudden disappearance from the world stage at this critical moment meant that leader who had orchestrated the alliance that would go on to defeat the forces of fascism and set the stage for the successful creation of the United Nations would not be there to witness these historic developments. Nor would he be present when his government faced one of the most daunting decisions made in human history—the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Roosevelt’s absence at the dawn of the nuclear age has raised several questions about what might have happened had he lived long enough to witness the successful development of the atomic bomb. Would Roosevelt—whose knowledge of and involvement in the making of the atomic bomb was far more extensive than President Truman’s—have followed the same course of action? Or might FDR have pursued an alternative strategy for ending the war, through negotiation or a demonstration of the atomic bomb’s awesome power. Equally significant, might he have ultimately taken Bohr’s advice and shared the atomic secret with the Russians in such a way as to gain their confidence and perhaps avoid the onset of the nuclear arms race that stood at the heart of the Cold War?

As discussed in this presentation, a close examination of FDR’s last 100 days in office offers some interesting clues as to what Roosevelt might have done had he lived long enough to bring the most destructive war in history to an end.

About David B. Woolner:

David B. Woolner is Professor of History and Kovler Foundation Fellow of Roosevelt Studies at Marist College; Senior Fellow and Resident Historian of the Roosevelt Institute; and Senior Fellow of the Center for Civic Engagement at Bard College. He is the author of The Last 100 Days: FDR at War and at Peace (Basic Books, 2017), is editor/co-editor of five books, and served as historical advisor to the Ken Burns films The Roosevelts: An Intimate History and The US and the Holocaust and for numerous special exhibitions at the FDR Presidential Library and Museum.

Dr. Woolner is the recipient of the Fulbright Denmark Distinguished Scholar Award in American Studies at the University of Southern Denmark (2023-2024) and was recently named a Fulbright Specialist for the years 2021-2025 by the US Department of State’s Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs. From 2000-2010, Dr. Woolner served as the Roosevelt Institute’s Executive Director, overseeing a significant expansion of the organization’s budget, programmatic dimension and staff. He earned his Ph. D. and M.A. in history from McGill University and a B.A. summa cum laude in English Literature and History from the University of Minnesota.

The lecture takes place in the DIAS Auditorium at Fioniavej 34.
Everybody is welcome and no registration is needed.