Princeton Workshop in the History of Science
Organized by Angela Creager and Michael Gordin
November 5-6 (Friday & Saturday), 2004
The Second World War is universally regarded by historians of science as having tremendous implications for the practice of physics in the United States. Where the historiographical consensus becomes less certain is when one begins to interrogate the various independent variables in that sentence, replacing them with other terms: What happens when you specify the different aspects of the war (radar versus nuclear weapons versus state funding)? Science versus technology? Physics versus other physical sciences versus biology? The United States versus the Soviet Union or the rest of the world? Especially considering how much historical attention has been trained on this specific episode in the history of science, it is remarkable how little dialog there is among different constituencies in the field, and how little the broader processes in question have been understood.
This workshop is intended to start to change that balkanized stasis. Focusing on the atomic legacy of World War II - both military and civilian - we would like to place historians of physical sciences in conversation with historians of the life science and historians of technology, Cold War specialists in touch with historians of the War itself, Americanists with historians who work on other regions of the world, and thus begin to generate a conversation about how we as a discipline can make greater sense of nuclear science and technology in its global context.
Since the purpose of this idea is to generate a conversation between diverse specialists, it makes little sense to divide the workshops up into two or three separate events, as is our custom at Princeton. Instead, we will have a two-day conference with half-hour oral presentations, formal commentaries, and plenty of time for discussion.