150+ Canadian Day 95: Cyrus Eaton

Cyrus Eaton, a banker- philanthropist, contributed to peace by sponsoring and organizing Pugwash Conferences on World Peace.  #Canada150

Cyrus Stephen Eaton was born on December 27, 1883 on a farm near the village of Pugwash, Nova Scotia. After graduating from McMaster University where he studied philosophy and finance, he became one of the most influential, powerful and sometimes controversial financiers in the American Midwest. However, for decades he was also known for his passion for world peace and for his outspoken criticism of United States Cold War policy.

In July 9, 1955 The Russell-Einstein Manifesto was issued in London by Bertrand Russell in the midst of the Cold War. It highlighted the dangers posed by nuclear weapons and called for world leaders to seek peaceful resolutions to international conflict. The signatories included eleven preeminent intellectuals and scientists, including Albert Einstein, who signed it just days before his death. A few days after the release, philanthropist Eaton offered to sponsor a conference, called for in the manifesto, in  his birthplace, Pugwash, NS. This conference was to be the first of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, held in July 1957.

Eaton became dedicated to the quest for international friendship, disarmament and peace.  He actively encouraging and promoting better trade relations between the United States and members of the Communist bloc, and by financed and supported international venues for friendly discussion about peace and nuclear disarmament.

By the time Richard Nixon became President, Cyrus Eaton and others had so influenced the political climate in the United States that not only did Nixon seek peace with North Vietnam, but laws and public policy resisting trade and cultural communications between American businessmen and Communistic countries were being changed in favour of detente, mutual cooperation on important international issues and an easing of military tensions. This was also a period when, despite bitterness and setbacks, progress was being made in the objectives first established at Pugwash Conferences supported and financed by Cyrus Eaton, objectives such as mutual curtailments in nuclear weapons testing in the atmosphere and negotiations leading to the first agreements on nuclear disarmament and international teams of inspection.

In recognition of his efforts to bring scientists and other public figures from the East and West together for discussion at the Pugwash Conferences, the Soviet Union awarded him a Lenin Peace Prize in 1960. Since Cyrus Eaton`s death an International Student/Young Pugwash Group have continued his efforts for international friendship and understanding among the youth.

The Conferences have now brought peacemakers together for over 60 years. Pugwash seeks a world free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Moving beyond rhetoric, the participants (now over 300 strong at Conferences) foster creative discussions on ways to increase the security of all sides in the affected regions.

Besides financial support for the peace conferences, Eaton gave money to support education in Nova Scotia, particularly in Pugwash and to Acadia University. He supported the establishment of a game sanctuary in Nova Scotia on the Aspotogan Peninsula. “Cyrus Eaton has been moved to care about education, and making the planet a vibrant and safe place to live, no matter what the particulars of the politics or philosophy you grew up with,” said Alice Guilk.

Eaton’s 1950s efforts at reconciliation with the Soviet Union won him the 1960 Lenin Peace prize. He was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1958, and was the recipient of an honorary degree from Bowling Green State University in 1969. The Pugwash Conferences and their chairman Joseph Rotblat were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995.

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