Helen Caldicott



Helen Caldicott

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Helen Caldicott

Helen Caldicott, October 2007
Born 7 August 1938 (age 78)
Melbourne, Australia
Occupation Physician, activist
Spouse(s) William Caldicott
Children Philip, Penny, William Jr
Website Helen Caldicott’s official website

Helen Mary Caldicott (born 7 August 1938) is an Australian physician, author, and anti-nuclear advocate who has founded several associations dedicated to opposing the use of nuclear power, depleted uranium munitions, nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons proliferation, and military action in general.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Caldicott became a leader in the antinuclear movement in the United States through her role in reviving the organization Physicians for Social Responsibility. She also helped to found several other organizations which worked to abolish controlled nuclear fission. In the 1980s, she was effective in raising support and bringing nuclear issues to the forefront. Caldicott splits her time between the United States and Australia and continues to lecture widely to promote her views on nuclear energy use, including weapons and power.

Early life and education[edit]

Helen Caldicott was born on August 7, 1938, in Melbourne, Australia, the daughter of a factory manager, Philip Broinowski, and Mary Mona Enyd (Coffey) Broinowski, an interior designer. She attended public-school except for four years at Fintona Girls School in Adelaide, a private secondary school. When she was 17, she enrolled at the University of Adelaide Medical School; she graduated in 1961 with a B.S. in surgery and an M.B. in medicine (the equivalent of an American M.D.). In 1962, she married William Caldicott, a pediatric radiologist, who has worked with her in her campaigns. They have three children, Philip, Penny, and William Jr.[1]

Caldicott and her husband moved to Boston in 1966 where she entered a three-year fellowship in nutrition at Harvard Medical School. Returning to Adelaide in 1969, she accepted a position in the renal unit of Queen Elizabeth Hospital. In the early 1970s, she completed a year’s residency and a two-year internship in pediatrics. She also set up a clinic for cystic fibrosis. In 1977, she joined the staff of the Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, and taught pediatrics at the Harvard Medical School from 1977 to 1978. [1]

Anti-nuclear activism[edit]

Caldicott’s interest in the dangers of nuclear energy was sparked when she read the Neville Shute book On the Beach, a novel about nuclear holocaust set in Australia,[2] In the 1970s, she rose to prominence as a public figure in Australia and subsequently New Zealand and North America, speaking on the health hazards of radiation from her professional perspective as a pediatrician.

Her early achievements included convincing Australia to sue France over its atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons in the Pacific in 1971 and 1972, which brought the practice to an end. She also informed Australian labor unions about the medical and military dangers of uranium mining.[3]

Following the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, Caldicott left her medical career to concentrate on calling the world’s attention to what she refers to as the “insanity” of the nuclear arms race and the growing reliance on nuclear power. In 1980, she founded the Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament (WAND) in the United States, which was later renamed Women’s Action for New Directions. It is a group dedicated to reducing or redirecting government spending away from nuclear energy use towards what the group perceives as unmet social issues.[4]

During her time in the United States from 1977 to 1986, Caldicott was the founding president from 1978 to 1983 of Physicians for Social Responsibility (founded in 1961 and dormant from 1970 to 1978), and she helped to recruit 23,000 doctors committed to educating the public and their colleagues on the dangers of nuclear energy. She also worked abroad to establish similar national groups that focused on education about the medical dangers of nuclear energy, nuclear weapons and nuclear war. The umbrella organisation International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.

In 1995 Caldicott returned to the US where she lectured for the New School of Social Research on the Media, Global Politics, and the Environment. She also hosted a weekly radio show on WBAI (Pacifica) and became the Founding President of the STAR (Standing for Truth About Radiation) Foundation.
Her sixth book, The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush’s Military Industrial Complex, was published in 2001. While touring with that book, she founded the Nuclear Policy Research Institute (NPRI), headquartered in Washington, D.C. NPRI facilitated an ongoing public education campaign in the mainstream media about the dangers of nuclear energy, including weapons and power programs and policies. It was led by both Caldicott and Executive Director Julie R. Enszer. NPRI attempted to create a consensus to end all uses of nuclear energy by means of public education campaigns, establishing a presence in the mainstream media, and sponsoring high-profile symposia. NPRI has now morphed into Beyond Nuclear.

In 2008 Caldicott founded the Helen Caldicott Foundation for a Nuclear Free Future. The foundation hosted a weekly radio show called “If You Love This Planet”. The foundation also operates a website called NuclearFreePlanet.org with information and data on nuclear power and weapons and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.[5]

In April 2011, Caldicott was involved in a public argument in UK newspaper The Guardian with British journalist George Monbiot. Monbiot expressed great concern at what he saw as a failure by Caldicott to provide adequate justification for many of her arguments. Regarding Caldicott’s book Nuclear Power is Not The Answer he wrote, “The scarcity of references to scientific papers and the abundance of unsourced claims it contains amaze me.”[6][7] In reply Caldicott wrote, “As we have seen, he and other nuclear industry apologists sow confusion about radiation risks, and, in my view, in much the same way that the tobacco industry did in previous decades about the risks of smoking.”[8]

In 2014, Physicians for Social Responsibility hosted a lecture on “Fukushima’s Ongoing Impact” by Caldicott in Seattle, Washington.[9]

Australian politics[edit]

In Australia’s 1990 federal election Caldicott unsuccessfully contested the House of Representatives New South Wales seat of Richmond, a seat held since the inaugural 1901 federal election by conservatives, and by the National Party since it first contested elections at the 1922 federal election. Caldicott polled very well for a federal independent candidate, receiving 23.3 percent of the primary vote. On the sixth count, Caldicott had 27.4 percent of the vote, with National’s incumbent (and then leader of the Nationals) Charles Blunt at 43.2 percent and Labor candidate Neville Newell at 29.4 percent. Caldicott was eliminated, and more than three-fourths of her preferences flowed to Newell. This enabled Labor to take the seat for the first time in its history, on 50.5 percent of the two-party preferred vote, a swing of 7.1 percent.[10] This marked one of the only three times a major party leader lost his own seat at an election, the others involving Stanley Bruce at the 1929 election and John Howard at the 2007 election.

Caldicott tried to enter the Australian Senate in 1991, attempting to win Democrat support to replace New South Wales Senator Paul McLean, who had recently resigned. However, the party selected Karin Sowada to replace McLean.

Honors and awards[edit]

Caldicott has been awarded 21 honorary doctoral degrees and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling in 1985.[11][12] In 1982, she received the Humanist of the Year award from the American Humanist Association.[13] In 1992, Caldicott received the 1992 Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston for her leadership in the worldwide disarmament movement. She was awarded the Lannan Foundation Prize for Cultural Freedom in 2003, and in 2006, the Peace Organisation of Australia presented her with the inaugural Australian Peace Prize “for her longstanding commitment to raising awareness about the medical and environmental hazards of the nuclear age”. The Smithsonian Institution has named Caldicott as one of the most influential women of the 20th century.[14] She is a member of the scientific committee of the Fundacion IDEAS, a progressive think tank in Spain. She serves on the Advisory Council of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.[15] In 2009, she was designated a Women’s History Month Honoree by the National Women’s History Project.[16]


Books by Helen Caldicott[17]
Title Year of Publication Publisher(s) ISBN Role
Nuclear Madness: What You Can Do! 1978 (revised 1994) W.W. Norton & Company ISBN 0393310116 Author
Missile Envy: The Arms Race and Nuclear War 1984 William Morrow & Co ISBN 9780688019549 Author
If you love this planet 1992 W. W. Norton & Company ISBN 9780393308358 Author
A Desperate Passion: An Autobiography 1996 W.W. Norton & Company ISBN 0393316807 Author
Metal of Dishonor: How Depleted Uranium Penetrates Steel, Radiates People and Contaminates the Environment 1997 International Action Center ISBN 0-9656916-0-8 Author
The New Nuclear Danger: George W.Bush’s Military-industrial Complex 2002 (revised 2004) The New PressScribe Publications (Australia) ISBN 1565847407ISBN 0908011652 Author
Nuclear Power is Not the Answer 2006 The New PressMelbourne University Press ISBN 978-1-59558-067-2ISBN 0522 85251 3 Author
War in Heaven: The Arms Race in Outer Space 2007 The New Press ISBN 978-1-59558-114-3 Co-author with Craig Eisendrath
Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy 2007 RDR Books ISBN 978-1571431738 Author of Afterword (author is Arjun Makhijani)
If You Love This Planet: A Plan to Save the Earth 2009 W.W. Norton & Company ISBN 978-0-393-33302-2 Author
Loving this planet 2012 The New Press ISBN 978-1-59558-067-2 Editor
Crisis Without End: The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Catastrophe 2014 The New Press ISBN 978-1-59558-960-6 Editor

Documentary films[edit]

Caldicott has appeared in numerous documentary films and television programs.[18] In the early 1980s, she was the subject of two documentaries: the Oscar-nominated 1981 feature-length film Eight Minutes to Midnight: A Portrait of Dr. Helen Caldicott and the 1982 Oscar-winning National Film Board of Canada short documentary, If You Love This Planet.[19]

A 2004 documentary film, Helen’s War: Portrait of a Dissident,[20] provides a look into Caldicott’s life through the eyes of her niece, filmmaker Anna Broinowski.

Caldicott is featured along with foreign affairs experts, space security activists and military officials in interviews in Denis Delestrac‘s 2010 feature documentary Pax Americana and the Weaponization of Space.

The 2013 documentary Pandora’s Promise also features footage of Caldicott interspersed with counter-points to her assertions regarding the health impacts of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Title Director Production Company Year
The World Awaits Don Haderlein 2015 (in production)
The Oracles of Pennsylvania Avenue Tim Wilkerson 2013
United Natures Peter Charles Downey United Natures Independent Media 2013
Pandora’s Promise Robert Stone Robert Stone Productions, Vulcan Productions 2013
Democracy Now! (TV Series) Democracy Now 2011
The University of Nuclear Bombs Mohamed Elsawi, Joshua James 2010
Pax Americana and the Weaponization of Space Denis Delestrac Coptor Productions Inc., Lowik Media 2009
Difference of Opinion (TV Series) Australian Broadcasting Corporation 2007
Poison Dust Sue Harris 2005
Fatal Fallout: The Bush Legacy Gary Null Gary Null Moving Pictures 2004
Helen’s War: Portrait of a Dissident Anna Broinowski 2004
American Experience (TV documentary) WGBH 1998
In Our Hands Robert Richter, Stanley Warnow 1984
If You Love This Planet (short) Terri Nash National Film Board of Canada 1982
Eight Minutes to Midnight: A Portrait of Dr. Helen Caldicott Mary Benjamin 1981
We are the Guinea Pigs Joan Harvey 1980

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jump up to:a b “Helen Caldicott Biography (1938-)”.
  2. Jump up^ Dullea, Georgia (1979-06-02). “Pediatrician believes babies more susceptible to radiation”. The Index-Journal. Greenwood, South Carolina. Retrieved 2015-01-20.
  3. Jump up^ “Dr. Helen Caldicott CV”. Dr. Helen Caldicott. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  4. Jump up^ Sheldon, Sayre (October 2004). “A Brief History of WAND”. WAND Education Fund. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
  5. Jump up^ “If You Love This Planet weekly radio program archives”. Retrieved 2009-05-06.
  6. Jump up^ https://www.theguardian.com/environment/georgemonbiot/2011/apr/13/anti-nuclear-lobby-interrogate-beliefs
  7. Jump up^ https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/apr/05/anti-nuclear-lobby-misled-world
  8. Jump up^ https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/apr/11/nuclear-apologists-radiation
  9. Jump up^ Fukushima’s Ongoing Impact; Physicians for Social Responsibility; 28 September 2014
  10. Jump up^ House of Representatives results, 1990 NSW: Adam Carr’s election archive
  11. Jump up^ Caldicott Biography; U.S. National Library of Medicine
  12. Jump up^ Curriculum Vitae; Caldicott Website; 12 January 2015
  13. Jump up^ “Remedy for Global Instability – a Public Lecture by Dr Helen Caldicott”. November 12, 2016.
  14. Jump up^ Anti-nuclear Activist Dr. Helen Caldicott to Appear; Cape Cod Today; 28 March 2012[dead link]
  15. Jump up^ Advisory Council; Nuclear Age Peace Foundation; 20 February 2014
  16. Jump up^ “Honorees: 2010 National Women’s History Month”. Women’s History Month. National Women’s History Project. 2010. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  17. Jump up^ “Books”. Trove. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 2015-03-16.
  18. Jump up^ “Helen Caldicott”. IMDb. Retrieved 2015-06-08.
  19. Jump up^ Nash, Terre (1982). “If You Love This Planet”. NFB.ca. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 2009-04-30.
  20. Jump up^ “CBC The Passionate Eye Sunday Showcase: Helen’s War, Portrait of a Dissident”. Archived from the original on 15 January 2006. Retrieved 2006-01-15.

External links[edit]

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