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21 February 2009

On this day in history: Nuclear Disarmament logo designed, 1958

Britain started developing nuclear weapons in 1952, but by the end of the decade various groups formed to protest in favour of nuclear disarmament. One such group, the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC), decided to march from Trafalgar Square in London to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment near Aldermaston in Berkshire over the Easter weekend (4th - 7th April 1958). The Nuclear Disarmament logo made its public debut on the march having been adopted by DAC earlier that year at a meeting at the offices of Peace News.

The design of the logo dated from 21st February 1958, when it ws created by the professional designer and conscientious objector, Gerald Holtom. Holtom later explained the very personal genesis of the design:

I was in despair. Deep despair. I drew myself: the representative of an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards in the manner of Goya's peasant before the firing squad. I formalised the drawing into a line and put a circle round it.

The symbol also combines the semaphore letters 'N' (both arms to the side at 45 degree downward angle) and 'D' (one arm held vertically up, the other vertically down), forming the initials of Nuclear Disarmament.

The various nuclear disarmament coalesced into the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, (CND) founded in 1957. CND adopted Holtom's symbol as well as the Aldermaston march, which it organised yearly. Many anti-nuclear groups and peace activists around the world have adopted the logo, which has become known widely as the peace symbol.


Pam Walter said...

I once heard this symbol described as the footprint of a chicken. It is interesting to hear the real meaning of the lines.

ray gratzner said...

I never asked myself who designed the logo. It just looked like the Volkswagen-Logo....
Thank you for providing the missing piece of information...Happy Blogging said...

So that's where it originated.


Eat Well. Live Well.

Stepterix said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone.

Pam: It has been described as a claw too, as well as a sign of the devil and a communist logo, but I bet you can guess the sort of people who came to those conclusions.