Newhouse to host screening of film about creator of hydrogen bomb

Richard Garwin is known for creating the first hydrogen bomb, a technology that altered the course of history. But many people are unaware of his lasting contributions today.

A Syracuse University professor and alumnus created a documentary to share Garwin’s life and experiences.

The S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications will show the premiere of the documentary “Garwin” Thursday at 7 p.m. in Heroy Geology Laboratory Auditorium. Richard Breyer, a professor of television, radio and film and alumnus Anand Kamalakar co-directed the film.

Garwin, a physicist, created the first hydrogen bomb in 1952. He was asked to help with the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and find solutions to fix the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, according to a summary of the film.

Producer Walter Montgomery said he wanted to make a documentary on a man who deserved attention more than almost anyone he’s encountered throughout his life.

“He’s a very well-known policy maker, but has been a rather quiet figure outside the science and public policy world,” Montgomery said.

Garwin has advised every president since Eisenhower because of his knowledge of nuclear weapons and public policy, according to the summary. Kamalakar said Garwin made a difference in the world by influencing policy makers.

“People like Garwin are people who work behind the scenes to make our world safer by educating people in power like the president as to what it means to have power over dangerous things like nuclear bombs,” Kamalakar said.

The team started filming in the summer of 2012. They traveled across the United States and Europe with Garwin, attending international conferences and examining issues such as the energy crisis, global warming, terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

“The whole experience of traveling with Garwin — who is 83 years old and as energetic as we are — was great,” Kamalakar said.

The filmmakers said they created the documentary to educate people about public policy and the science that drives it. Montgomery also hopes that people will watch the documentary and understand the importance of serving the public good, just like Garwin did.

Montgomery said he hopes a wide range of people will see his documentary, adding that there will be a few more major showings — one of them before a “major science association.”

Creating the film and showing Garwin’s studies in a manner that could be easily understood challenged the filmmakers.

“He’s a hardcore scientist who does hardcore science,” Kamalakar said.

It was also difficult for the team to convey his personality in a way that would capture the audience’s attention.

“We had to tell an engaging story about a scientist who speaks another language and spends a lot of time in front of computers,” Breyer said.

The filmmakers agreed that the story is important because not many people know about Garwin or the work he’s done. His contributions to society go beyond weaponry, including more than 45 inventions in his name under military and satellite technology, they said.

Kamalakar believes the world isn’t much safer since bombs were dropped in Japan during World War II, but he said Garwin’s life and work hold insight to society’s progression since.

“While many things have changed, a lot of things haven’t, and Garwin’s story holds a mirror to that,” he said. “If anyone is interested in how we got here, they should watch this film. Garwin is a guy who still works on challenges.”


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