The VDW was founded in 1959 in West-Berlin by a group of renowned nuclear scientists including Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker and the Nobel laureates Max Born, Otto Hahn, Werner Heisenberg as well as Max von Laue. Two years earlier this group of experts had become well-known to the public as the ‚Göttinger 18‘: Nuclear scientists who had publicly argued against a nuclear armament of the German Bundeswehr. Both the ‚Göttinger Erklärung‘ and the formation of the VDW were an expression of the new sense of responsibility felt by scientists after the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The members of VDW stand in this tradition. They feel committed to taking into consideration the possible military, political and economical implications and possibilities of atomic misuse when carrying out their scientific research and teaching.

According to its statutes laid down in 1959, VDW aims to

• raise and deepen the awareness of those working in science for their responsibility for the effects which their work has on society;

• study the problems which result from the continuous development of science and technology;

• assist science and its representatives in making public the questions related to the application of scientific and technical developments;

• provide advice and thus exercise influence on decisions as long as they are accessible and can be dealt with by means of scientific knowledge and methods, and to point out all forms of misuse of scientific and technical results;

• to defend the freedom of scientific research and the free exchange of its results and to expand and strengthen the traditional international cooperation of scientists.

Founding members G. Burkhardt, Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker, Walther Gerlach

Founding members Max Born, Hans Kopfermann

Egon Bahr, Götz Neuneck, Ulrich Bartosch