Honorary Degree Citation
Internationally renowned and bestselling author of 23 books, your hallmark is a four-volume examination of the nuclear arms race. The forthcoming and last of your quartet of nuclear histories reveals the dangers of secrecy, the self-serving delusions of nuclear enthusiasts, and the critical links among science, politics, and war. In The Making of the Atomic Bomb, the first volume, you documented the careers—and the belated moral and ethical concerns—of scientists whose work led to Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the Cold War arms race. A Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award recognized this achievement. Volume two, Dark Sun, examined the dilemmas facing scientists and politicians as they determined to build the most extreme weapon of mass destruction, the hydrogen bomb. You have shown intellectual independence since, as a small boy, you escaped an abusive family to begin a career marked by introspection and discovery. You have written fiction, nonfiction, biography, and autobiography to explore human nature from the personal level to the realm of international science and politics. You have held fellowships from the Ford, Guggenheim, MacArthur, and Sloan foundations. Without sentimentality or sensation but because of your own experiences, your autobiography encourages others to explore child abuse, and it demonstrates the power of the human spirit against all obstacles. In every aspect of your work, you insist upon a foundation of primary sources, clarity in exposition, and boldness in argument. Through your use of oral history and memoirs, you give a human dimension to all of your work. You warn us of the dangers of tyranny at all levels: family, institute, and state. You herald the human capacity to overcome ignorance and violence.
By the authority of the Board of Trustees of Colby College, I confer upon you, Richard Rhodes, the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa. The hood with which you have been invested and this diploma which I place in your hand are visible symbols of your membership in this society of scholars, to all the rights and privileges of which I declare you entitled.
Conferred May 23, 2010