CSS researchers give two papers at 25th International Congress for History of Science and Technology (ICHST)
Dania Achermann and Matthias Heymann on climate research history and Kristian H. Nielsen on UNESCO's efforts at science popularization
Rescaling climate: How climate research changed conceptions of climate - Dania Achermann (Aarhus University), Matthias Heymann (Aarhus University)
Since the 1950s, the way climate has been investigated changed significantly. Most climatologists in the 19th century adhered to a Humboldtian conception of climate as a timeless, geographical concept associated with a constant set of atmospheric characteristics that were connected to specific places on the surface of the earth. Climatology was mostly understood as being a geographical discipline with a strong interest in
the interaction of climate with human beings. Interest in the small scale and attention to geographical
detail was a hallmark of climatology. With the emergence of a physical understanding of atmospheric processes in dynamic meteorology and the development of computer-based numerical simulation of weather and climate since the 1950s, scientists developed a remarkably different understanding of climate: climate was portrayed as a complex, inter-connected global phenomenon that is subject to change within human timescales. Research strategies such as climate modelling and paleoclimatological research provided new data on very large temporal and spatial scales. In contrast, traditionally strong interests in the local and human dimensions of climate declined. As a consequence, climate interest and knowledge became increasingly detached from local climate knowledge and did not easily translate into political action on the regional levels, as social scientists have critically observed. In this paper we will investigate historical processes that stood behind a globalization of climate knowledge and a loss of the smaller and the human scales by exploring the role of two major research domains in the globalizing of climate knowledge: climate modelling and ice core paleoclimatology.
Science popularization goes global: UNESCO’s Division of Science & Its Popularization - Kristian H. Nielsen (Aarhus University)
This paper provides a historical investigation of the Division of Science & Its Popularization, established in 1948 at UNESCO (United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in Paris, France. I will present the immediate context of the Division and its establishment; discuss some of the key actors and their views on science popularization; and finally provide an overview of the Division’s activities across the globe. The “S” was added at the last moment to UNESCO’s name at the constituting conference in London in 1945. The first director of UNESCO, Julian Huxley, was a British evolutionary biologist with eugenicist and internationalist views. Huxley was instrumental in appointing Joseph Needham, one of the main architects behind the “S”, as the first head of the Natural Sciences Section of UNESCO. Huxley and Needham were both prominent public intellectuals advocating the view that science popularization was instrumental in facilitating proper social relations of science. At UNESCO, Needham proposed the “periphery principle” as a guiding principle for all UNESCO’s efforts in science cooperation and science popularization. This meant, basically, that UNESCO should always aim at making scientific knowledge and resources available to countries at the periphery, i.e. less developed countries. In late 1947, Huxley and Needham asked Danish science journalist Børge Michelsen to head UNESCO’s newly established Division of Science & Its Popularization. Like Huxley and Needham, Michelsen was a left-wing convinced that science popularization ought to be pursued globally in order to heighten scientific literacy across the world, but also to raise awareness of the problems raised by the
social impacts of science. Michelsen and his team initiated and coordinated science clubs, science films, science festivals, science radio shows and many more activities in many less developed countries, but also in the industrial countries. UNESCO’s activities in science popularization were global in scope, probably for the first time ever. The program certainly helped stimulate interest in science popularization across the world. However, partly due to the development of the Cold War, Huxley’s, Needham’s and Michelsen’s views on the proper purpose of science popularization soon gave way to other understandings of popular science less focused on the social relations of science.