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CSS colloquium, Roy MacLeod: "The Scientists Go to War, 1914-1918"

Info about event


Monday 12 November 2012,  at 09:15 - 12:00



In August 2014, the world will commemorate the outbreak of the Great War.  The occasion will cause many to rethink the causes and consequences of the war for our time. For the natural sciences, the war had a special meaning and left a special legacy.  The first global war to engage all the industrial countries of the world also mobilised scientific minds, methods, and materials, sometimes in familiar ways, sometimes in ways that were wholly new. For some, the experience was a heart-rending waste of talent and resources; for others, a welcome challenge.  For George Ellery Hale, Foreign Secretary of the US National Academy of Sciences, it was ‘the greatest chance we ever had to advance research’.

This speech will outline some of the features of the ‘scientific war’, and will reflect on the war’s importance for the first modern ‘military-academic-industrial complexes’. It will also suggest some of the immediate and long-term consequences of the war for Max Weber’s cherished concept of ‘Wissenschaft als Beruf’.

Roy MacLeod is Professor Emeritus of History and an Honorary Associate in the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Sydney. He was educated at Harvard and at Cambridge, and has held senior positions at several universities and research centres in England, North America, Europe, and Australasia. He was the co-founder (and for twenty years) co-editor of the journal Social Studies of Science, and between 2000 -2008 succeeded Edward Shils as Editor of Minerva. In 2002, he was awarded a Humboldt Prize for research in Germany, to which part of the present work is indebted. At present, he is a Fellow of the Lichtenberg-Kolleg, the institute for advanced studies in the humanities and social sciences at the University of Goettingen.