Special Issue: Diplomats in Science Diplomacy

DHST Historical Commission on Science, Technology and Diplomacy-sponsored special issue of Ber. Wissenschaftsgesch (History of Science and Humanities)

The Commission is excited to announce the publication of our second special issue, ‘Diplomats in Science Diplomacy: Promoting Scientific and Technological Collaboration in International Relations’, which has been edited by Lif Lund Jacobsen and Doubravka Olšáková.


Diplomats in Science Diplomacy: Promoting Scientific and Technological Collaboration in International Relations (Free Access Article)
Lif Lund Jacobsen and Doubravka Olšáková


Science for Competition among Powers: Geographical Knowledge, Colonial‐Diplomatic Networks, and the Scramble for Africa
Daniel Gamito‐Marques

Historical studies on the relationship between science and diplomacy tend to focus on events since World War II and on initiatives for the maintenance of peace or to achieve cooperation over contentious matters. This article presents the case of José Vicente Barbosa du Bocage (1823–1907), a Portuguese zoologist who had formal diplomatic responsibilities in a context of competition for the colonization of Africa in the nineteenth century. He used his knowledge in African geography to implement colonial and diplomatic strategies that aimed at outcompeting rival powers. The development of a network of actors with scientific, colonial, and diplomatic expertise was crucial for the negotiations that involved the partition of the Congo basin, which resulted in victories for Portugal that surpassed the country’s marginal political relevance at the international level and had long‐lasting consequences.

Niels Bohr’s Diplomatic Mission during and after World War Two
Finn Aaserud

The Danish physicist Niels Bohr is best known for two major achievements: first, his model of the quantum atom, published in 1913, for which he received the Nobel Prize in 1922; and second, the “Copenhagen interpretation” of quantum mechanics developed together with colleagues at his institute in the latter half of the twenties. Having turned his institute toward nuclear physics, making it a pioneer institution in this emerging field, Bohr escaped from Nazi‐occupied Denmark in 1943. Learning in England about the advanced state of the secret project to develop an atomic bomb, which Bohr had so far considered impracticable in a foreseeable future, he agreed to join the project. Bohr decided instantly that the prospect of such a weapon of mass destruction would require what he came to call an “open world” among nations, and he worked conscientiously toward this end until he died in 1962. In the process, statesmen, including Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt, as well as diplomats from several countries, came to encounter Bohr and his political mission. Although not as successful as his scientific achievements, his mission was considered by Bohr himself as equally important. Yet it constitutes a hitherto relatively neglected part of Bohr’s career.

The Unflinching Mr. Smith and the Nuclear Age (Open Access Article)
Simone Turchetti

This article focuses on the U.S. diplomat and nuclear arms control negotiator Gerald (Gerry) Coat Smith in order to cast new light on the importance of diplomats in the context of the set of international activities currently labelled as “science diplomacy.” Smith, a lawyer by training, was a key negotiator in many international agreements on post‐WW2 atomic energy projects, from those on uranium prospecting and mining, to reactors technologies to later ones on non‐proliferation and disarmament. His career in science (nuclear) diplomacy also epitomized the shortcomings of efforts to align other countries’ posture on nuclear affairs to U.S. wishes. In particular, the unswerving diplomat increasingly understood that strong‐arm tactics to dissuade other countries from acquiring nuclear weapons would not limit proliferation. Not only did this inform later U.S. diplomacy approaches, but it lent itself to the ascendancy of the new notion of “soft power” as critical to the re‐definition of international affairs.

A Matter of Courtesy: The Role of Soviet Diplomacy and Soviet “System Safeguards” in Maintaining Soviet Influence on Czechoslovak Science before and after 1968
Doubravka Olšáková

In 1969, a few short months after the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, Sergei I. Prasolov, advisor to the Soviet Ambassador in Prague, informed František Šorm, President of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, at a formal meeting that he welcomed Šorm’s suggestion to intensify scientific exchange between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. Šorm politely declined this offer. Behind the veneer of diplomatic courtesy on the part of both actors, a real drama was taking place. Šorm and the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences had actually never formulated such a request. To the contrary, since the late 1950s the academy had repeatedly pointed out that the Soviets were incapable of coordinating scientific activities in the Eastern Bloc. The Soviet system of academic cooperation within the Eastern Bloc had already begun to collapse after the Geneva Summit of 1955, where the Soviets opened the door to international collaboration across the Iron Curtain. Yet it was only in the late 1960s that the Soviets realized that while they dominated large‐scale international collaboration, they had lost control of internal developments within the Eastern Bloc.

Engineering Education in Cold War Diplomacy: India, Germany, and the Establishment of IIT Madras
Roland Wittje

The Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT) was set up with assistance of the Federal Republic of Germany between 1956 and 1974. It became the largest, and finally, a successful techno‐scientific education project undertaken by the Federal Republic outside of Germany. In this paper, I argue that the engagement of the Federal Republic at IIT Madras has to be understood primarily as a project of Cold‐War science and technology diplomacy, which on the German side was aimed at preventing an Indian recognition of the German Democratic Republic as a sovereign nation. In aiding the establishment of IIT Madras, the Federal Republic came into direct competition with the Soviet Union, which supported IIT Bombay but also with the United States of America, which supported IIT Kanpur. The assistance to establish IIT Madras and its governance followed mainly political guidelines, to which educational and scientific aspects were rendered subordinate. When the project was in a crisis after the first State Treaty to establish IIT Madras expired in 1963, the political flagship project of the Federal Republic was not allowed to fail. Instead, the cooperation was reorganized and support increased.

For the Benefit of All Men: Oceanography and Franco‐American Scientific Diplomacy in the Cold War, 1958–1970 (Open Access Article)
Beatriz Martínez‐Rius

In the 1960s, the growing strategic importance of ocean exploration led the French government to develop greater capacity in marine scientific research, aiming to promote cooperative and diplomatic relations with the leading states in ocean exploration. Devised during Charles de Gaulle’s government (1958–1969), the restructuring of French oceanography culminated, in 1967, in the establishment of the state‐led Centre National pour l’Exploitation des Océans (CNEXO). Beyond being intended to control the orientation of marine research at a national level, the CNEXO’s mission was to use scientific diplomacy to balance a desire for enhancing international cooperative relations in oceanography with French ambitions to equal the USA’s leading capacity to explore the oceans. Its director, the naval officer Yves la Prairie, played a crucial role in articulating scientific, national, and diplomatic interests for France in the oceans.

HSNS Special Issue: Science Diplomacy

Issue Sponsored by DHST Historical Commission on Science, Technology and Diplomacy

We are happy to announce the publication of the first of our special issues, Science Diplomacy, edited by Giulia Rispoli & Simone Turchetti. Published in Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences, the volume explores this concept from a historical perspective, questioning the hagiographic and simplistic accounts that have characterized recent attempts to contextualize this phenomenon in the Anglophone world.

Seeking to provide a more persuasive and compelling view of the ancestry of what we can define “science diplomacy”, authors in this issue collectively argue for a richer and more nuanced history than the one discussed in the promotional literature. While covering different periods and geographies without being, of course, exhaustive, all articles discusses case studies that shed light on science diplomacy’s role in international affairs, and show how the encounter between scientists and diplomats to promote scientific collaborations has shaped novel transnational power relations that affected knowledge production and circulation. 


Introduction: Just Needham to Nixon? On Writing the History of “Science Diplomacy”
Simone Turchetti; Matthew Adamson; Giulia Rispoli; Doubravka Olšáková; Sam Robinson

This introduction examines the growing interest in science diplomacy and the parallel lack of in-depth historical studies on this new concept. In particular, we first show how the recent attention toward science diplomacy has led to a proliferation of hagiographic accounts reflecting the urgency to support its growth rather than truly investigate its ancestry. We then turn to consider how our historical understanding of science diplomacy could be improved, and how this knowledge could equally be of significance to science diplomacy practitioners today.

The Philosopher and the Rooster: Henri Bergson’s French Diplomatic Missions, 1914–1925
Geert Somsen

Unlike what is often presumed, scientific internationalism persisted through the First World War and its aftermath. Although many scientists aligned themselves with their belligerent nations after 1914, and although Germany and Austria were excluded from international meetings after 1919, the rhetoric celebrating the universally fraternizing nature of science continued as if no such ruptures existed. In this article I argue that this persistence was rooted in the war itself, and particularly in the massive mobilization of academics in wartime propaganda and diplomacy. In these activities they used internationalist arguments and their own supranational status as scientists to defend their countries’ war causes and defame those of the enemy. I illustrate this by following the diplomatic work of the French philosopher Henri Bergson. From the start of the war Bergson presented himself as a neutral scientific arbiter, developing a philosophy of the war (based on his work on life and evolution) as a battle of German barbarity versus universal (not just French) civilization. His government took note and sent Bergson on several diplomatic tasks, most notably a secret mission to the United States, early 1917, where he was to speak to President Wilson to persuade him to enter the war on the French side. Bergson’s universalism and his stature as a philosopher should appeal to Wilson’s dislike of partisanship and craving for the moral high ground. After the war, Bergson-style universalism continued and was institutionalized in the League of Nations and its International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation—with Bergson as its president.

Early Twentieth-Century Ocean Science Diplomacy: Competition and Cooperation among North Sea Nations
Sam Robinson

This paper is a response to a 2018 call for greater understanding of how previous examples of marine science diplomacy could help shape present day efforts to draft a new law of the sea that protects marine biodiversity and conserves the marine environment. It tackles this through analysis of the various twists, turns, and challenges of early science diplomacy efforts in marine science during the early twentieth century. It looks in turn at questions of defining and agreeing on research objectives, how backchannel science diplomacy can become official government diplomacy, and finally, how careful science diplomacy brought Germany back to the international research arena so as to successfully put in place marine conservation measures during the 1920s. In doing this, it argues that the foundation of the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas in 1902 represented a revolutionary moment where supra-national scientific research, coordination, and conservation politics for the ocean first emerged; with International Council for the Exploration of the Sea becoming a key model for all subsequent marine science diplomacy.

The (Science Diplomacy) Origins of the Cold War
Simone Turchetti

The US monopoly of information regarding nuclear weapons was one of the distinctive features of the early Cold War. It encouraged US officials to bolster their country’s hegemonic role in post-war affairs, something that scholars have previously referred to in terms of “atomic diplomacy.” This paper shows that Cold War atomic diplomacy originated in an ancestral form of what we call today “science diplomacy,” distinctive of wartime allied relations during WW2. It first explores how science became a distinctive feature of wartime diplomacy by looking at agreements regarding exchanges of information and collaboration that shaped the relations between wartime allies (US, UK, and the Soviet Union). It then shows that their signing (and, at times, their rejection) eventually paved the way to conflicting views within allied administrations on what to share, making their officials less inclined to pool more knowledge toward the end of WW2. In conclusion, US monopolistic stances and atomic diplomacy originated in these disagreements, also marking the demise of wartime science diplomacy.

Birds Without Borders: Ecological Diplomacy and the WWF in Franco’s Spain
Lino Camprubí

The Spanish Doñana Biological Station, inaugurated in 1964, poses two historiographical puzzles. First, it was the first large project of the World Wildlife Fund, which is usually seen as a response to the very specific post-imperial challenges of African parks. Second, it was the first non-alpine park in Spain, and although it was designed and inaugurated in the midst of Francisco Franco’s nationalist dictatorship, it was an explicitly transnational project. This paper approaches Doñana’s unique story through the concept of ecological diplomacy. It points to the diplomatic strategies mobilized by a small group of ecologists with managerial and financial skills. Promoting Doñana, British ornithologists presented it as an African wilderness, which created tensions with Spanish ecologists, themselves colonial scientists. Ecological diplomacy, moreover, refers to a characteristic period between conservation diplomacy and environmental diplomacy. In it, conservation was understood as the top-down management of foreign territories for research purposes. While this can be partly understood as the globalization of the Swiss model for conservation, it arrived in Spain through the mediation of the French Tour du Valat station and of English ecology. Finally, stressing the ecological dimension of this type of conservation diplomacy helps in studying the role of the science of ecology and its transformations. As Doñana became a national park, the WWF’s early emphasis on research was replaced by a new attention to recreation. Max Nicholson’s participation in the International Biology Program granted him an opportunity to favor this model when Doñana became a national park.

Science and Diplomacy around the Earth: From the Man and Biosphere Programme to the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme
Giulia Rispoli; Doubravka Olšáková

In this article we discuss two phases in the evolution of global environmental programs, namely the Man and Biosphere Programme and the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, with the aim of showing their hidden diplomatic ambitions from both US and Soviet perspectives. In the 1960s and 1970s, Soviet views on the biosphere prevailed thanks to the influence of Soviet scientists in the International Council of Scientific Unions and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. In the 1980s, the domination of this field by US scientists ushered in the establishment of Earth system science as a new research trend based on Earth observation technologies. We argue that despite the influence of Soviet ecologists in directing international coordination of research on the biosphere, Earth system science did not set in a trajectory of environmental cooperation. This outcome can be explained if we take the environmental and ecological turn that arose during the Cold War as being intertwined with political concerns and national interests in both the US and the USSR. Security, scientific diplomacy, and geopolitical issues limited East-West collaboration on the interdisciplinary study of the earth, which instead turned into a sort of cooperative antagonism. The transition from biosphere studies to Earth system science reveals a changing strategy toward environmental problems, which in turn reflects changes in Cold War policy.

Symposium: Diplomacy and Images in Science

9th European Society for the History of Science Conference:
‘Visual, Material, and Sensory Cultures of Science’
2nd September 2020

Panel 1: Scientific Images and International Rivalry

Gordon Barrett, ‘Competing Images of Chinese Science: Photography in the Communist-Nationalist Battle for International Legitimacy during the Second World War’

Lif Lund Jacobsen, ‘Seismograph Diplomacy’

Daniele Cozzoli, ‘American media and the Scientific and Technological Collaboration between the USA and USSR from Sputnik to Détente

Pascal Griset & Anne de Floris, ‘Show, Not Tell? The Astronaut as Political Mascot or as an Ambassador?’

Panel 2: Visualizing Environmental Crisis

Doubravka Olšáková, ‘Think Globally, Act Locally: How Brontosaurus, a Prehistoric Animal, Became a Symbol of Limits to Growth and Mass Environmental Movement in Communist Czechoslovakia’

Agustí Nieto-Galan, ‘“The bicycles of Stockholm”: Environmental Diplomacy, Scientific Expertise and Dissent at the 1972 UN Conference’

Régis Briday & Sebastian Grevsmühl, ‘Ignoring What Cannot Be Ignored: Visual Diplomacy and the Ozone Hole’

Panel 3: The Symbolic Power of Scientific Images in International Spaces

Simone Turchetti, ‘Unknown Pleasures in Music, Science, and Diplomacy’

Grigoris Panoutsopoulos, ‘Investigating the Materiality of CERN’s Science Diplomacy’

Beatriz Medori, ‘Radioactivity on Tour: The Picture of Eve Curie at the Portuguese Oncology Institute’

Matthew Adamson, ‘Dead Water: Tritium Sampling, the IAEA, and Global Hydrological Surveys’

Panel 4: Images and the Science of Empire

Carlos Godinho, ‘Nationalizing Scientific Diplomacy: the Celestial Sphere in the 1500s and 1900s Portuguese Politics and Diplomacy’

Ronald E. Doel, ‘Alternative Narratives: Learning from Examining Historical Photographs of the Empire of American Science’

Maria Paula Diogo, Ana Simões & Paula Urze, ‘Techno-Diplomacy in the Age of New Imperialism: The Pink Map Episode in Images’

Science Diplomacy: Global Online Workshop Programme

Organized by the DHST Commission on Science, Technology and Diplomacy

23 July 2020 (NB: The schedule is based on the British Summer Time [BST], not GMT)

9:00-9:45am – Science Diplomacy Commission AGM: Morning Session

Topics for Discussion: introduction, updates, scholarly outputs, globalising and diversifying the commission

10:00-11:00am – Panel 1: Cooperation or Competition? Nationhood and Scientific Diplomacy

Katrin Heilmann (PhD Candidate, King’s College London) – ‘Soviet Science Diplomacy?: Warsaw Pact Civil Defence Cooperation’

Jaehwan Hyun (Postdoctoral Fellow, Max Planck Institute Berlin) – ‘“Establishing a National Park in the Demilitarized Zone”: Nature Conservation and Science Diplomacy in Cold War South Korea’

Yue Liang (PhD candidate, SUNY Binghamton) – ‘Science Diplomacy and Hydraulic Infrastructure in Early Communist China’

Liu Xiao (PhD candidate, Bristol University) – ‘Diplomacy and Meteorology: Negotiation between China and Japan on the Recovery of Qingdao Observatory, 1918-1931’

11:00-12:00pm – Panel 2: Science Diplomacy Between and Beyond Nations

Richard Brown (Research Associate, York University) – ‘DDT and the Atomic Bomb: Two Cases of Scientific Collaboration in War’

Francis Newman (MPhil candidate, University of Cambridge) – ‘“Science as a diplomatic weapon”: The Royal Society and scientific freedoms in Sino-British exchanges, 1961-1966’

Gabriela Radulescu (PhD candidate, Technische Universität Berlin/ Max Planck Institute) – ‘Communication with (Extra)Terrestrial Intelligence: Science Diplomacy during the Cold War (1960-1976)’

Kichun Kang (PhD candidate, Seoul National University) – ‘Building Nation with Science: Science cooperation and aid between USA and Republic of Korea in the late 1960s and the 1970s’

Joyce Koranteng-Acquah (MPhil candidate, University of Manchester) – ‘Achieving Food Security Through Agriculture Policy Development’


2:00-3:00pm – Panel 3: Science and Public Diplomacy

Irina Nastasă-Matei (Junior Lecturer, University of Bucharest) – ‘Cultural diplomacy in Europe during the Cold War’

Maria Pavlova (Senior researcher, Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO)) – ‘Science diplomacy in Russian-Polish historical debate’

Andrew Thomas (British Interplanetary Society) – Formal and Informal Diplomacy in the Chinese Space Programme’

Molly Silk (PhD candidate, University of Manchester) – ‘Cultural Products of the Chinese Space Endeavour’

Ian Varga (PhD candidate, Florida State University) – ‘From on the Moon to around the World: Apollo Astronauts as Public Diplomats’

3:00-4:00pm – Panel 4: Location, Adaptation and Transfer

Vedran Duančić (Postdoctoral Researcher, the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts) – ‘Behind and Across the Curtains: How and What Yugoslavia Learned About American Big Science in the Early Cold War’

Robert-Jan Wille (Postdoc Researcher and Lecturer at the Freudenthal Institute of Utrecht University) – ‘Managing Germany’s position as central power in global meteorology: Hugo Hergesell’s meteorological Realpolitik before and after the First World War’

Geoffrey Durham (PhD candidate, University of Pennsylvania) – ‘Russia and the Internationalization of the Metric System, 1850s-1890s’

Bárbara K. Silva (Professor at Universidad Alberto Hurtado, FONDECYT Researcher (National Commission on Scientific and Technological Research)) – ‘Cold Stars in Chile. Astronomy and Politics in the Global Cold War’


4:30-5:15pm – Science Diplomacy Commission AGM: Afternoon Session

Topics for Discussion: resumé of the morning session, early career scholar involvement and support, future officers and activities of the Commission, meeting opportunities in the coming year

BSHS #HistSciFest Session Video: ‘Science in 1970: A Transnational History of Fifty Years Ago’

Here’s a video of our experimental session for the BSHS Global Digital History of Science Festival, with speakers and start times for their mini-presentations listed below:

Start TimeSpeakerTopic
[00:07:16]Carringtone Kinyanjui (University of Manchester)‘Science in 1970: A Global Picture‘
[00:14:56]Aya Homei (University of Manchester)‘“How Should We Deal with Asia’s Exploding Population?”: Family planning and Cold-War diplomacy in Asia’
[00:21:43]Jaehwan Hyun (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science)‘The Continental-Shelf in Dispute: Joint Marin Oil Exploration and the Collapse of the Anticommunist Alliance in East Asia’
[00:27:40]Gordon Barrett (University of Oxford)‘“The East Is Red, the Sun Is Rising”: Chinese Science Diplomacy, the Cultural Revolution, and the Dongfanghong I Satellite Launch’
[00:33:27]Giulia Rispoli (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science)‘Luna 17: Interplanetary politics in the Cold War’
[00:41:14]Doubravka Olsakova (Czech Academy of Sciences)‘The Brezhnev Doctrine in Outer Space’
[00:51:01]Matthew Adamson (McDaniel College)‘IAEA and Science Diplomacy ca. 1970’
[00:56:58]Gerardo Ienna (University of Venice)‘Transnational radical physicists and the Varenna Manifesto’
[01:01:35]Péter Marton (McDaniel College/Corvinus University)‘The Emerging Occupation of Occupational Health’
[01:07:57]Johan Gardebo (KTH, Stockholm)‘Remote Sensing as Environmental Diplomacy’
[01:13:28]Beatriz Martínez-Rius (Sorbonne University)‘1970 and the Exploration of “The Last Geographic Frontier”: Oil and International Cooperation in the Mediterranean’s Seafloor’
[01:20:42]Iqra Choudry (University of Manchester)‘When Global Science Met Polar Diplomacy’
[01:28:29]Júlia Mascarello (Federal University of Santa Catarina)‘Science Diplomacy in Brazil in 1970: Science and Technology as a Source for Economic Development’
[01:33:39]Waqar Zaidi (Lahore University)‘The Reactor and the Election: Pakistan’s Path to Nuclear Weapons’
[01:40:08]Sam Robinson (University of Cambridge)‘1970: The Peak of Ocean Technology Speculation – Sylvia Earle, The Aquanauts, and Tektite II’
[01:48:37]Leah Aronowsky (Columbia University)‘“Man’s Impact on the Global Environment”‘
[01:53:48]Simone Turchetti (University of Manchester)‘Did the Study of Science Diplomacy Begin in 1970?’
[02:02:24]Lif Lund Jacobsen (National Archive, Copenhagen)Concluding Remarks

Science in 1970: A Transnational History of Fifty Years Ago

BSHS Global Digital History of Science Festival
7 July, 2020, 10am-12pm (UTC+1)

Click here to register to attend this session (to be held on Zoom).

How should we remember science in the year 1970? Fifty years ago Earth Day was first celebrated; the WMO Global Program of Atmospheric Research started; the Ancash earthquake happened in Peru; a Symposium on Antarctic Ice and Water Masses took place in Tokyo (Japan); the Apollo 13 failed to land on the moon; Costa Rica established a national park system; China’s estimated aid to North Vietnam amounted to 200 million dollars; and the Non-Proliferation Treaty entered into force. These and many other science-related events reconfigured relations between nations, bilaterally and multilaterally (and between Global North and South), also connecting to projects for political hegemony and economic development. Their narration thus presents key challenges, especially in terms of reconstructing transnational interactions in science often overlooked in historical work focussing on one country (or one world region).

This innovative session aims to meet these challenges through an unconventional format. Speakers from across the world will offer 5-minute presentations in a virtual two-hour global tour that will connect scholars and historical events in distant places. Their presentations will corral a new transnational narrative about science in 1970 (also informing the writing of a co-authored paper to submit to a history of science journal).

Schedule Session 1, 10:00-11:00 UTC+1 (Chair: Simone Turchetti)

Welcome and Event Presentation


Carringtone Kinyanjui (University of Manchester), ‘Science in 1970: A Global Picture

Using scientometric methods, I will assess the state of science globally in 1970. In particular, using modules and libraries in Python programming language, I’ll scrape bibliometric data of over 60,000 publications in biology, physics and chemistry. The data is then deployed in a visualisation and analysis tool developed in Python showing the state of scientific collaboration networks and global imbalances reflected in the state of science in 1970.

Time: 10:05 UTC+1 (13:05 at Virtual Venue: Nairobi, Kenya)


Waqar Zaidi (Lahore University), ‘The Reactor and the Election: Pakistan’s Path to Nuclear Weapons’

This paper explores 1970 as a milestone on Pakistan’s path to developing nuclear weapons. By the end of the year the country’s first nuclear reactor, KANUPP1, was complete. On the political front, the general election that year set the country on a path to civil war and eventual dismemberment, cementing the establishment’s resolve to become a nuclear power.

Time: 10:10 UTC+1 (15:10 at Virtual Venue: Lahore, Pakistan)


Aya Homei  (University of Manchester), ‘”How Should We Deal with Asia’s Exploding Population?”: Family planning and Cold-War diplomacy in Asia’

In 1970, the Japanese government and Japanese Organization for International Cooperation in Family Planning hosted a seminar on family planning, attended by the representatives of transnational organizations and 12 East and Southeast Asian countries. The seminar illustrates how the idea of ‘Asia’s population explosion’ produced certain knowledge about economy, development, health and well-being arguably realized through family planning. This knowledge was directly shaped by the Cold War diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific region.

Time: 10:15 UTC+1 (19:15 at Virtual Venue: Tokyo, Japan)


Jaehwan Hyun (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science), ‘The Continental-Shelf in Dispute: Joint Marin Oil Exploration and the Collapse of the Anticommunist Alliance in East Asia’

A joint oil exploration project in a continental shelf in the East China Sea was conceived based on the anti-communist alliance between Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan in 1970. This paper examines how Japan’s détente with the PRC reshaped the initiative into a site of territorial disputes in the 1970s.

Time: 10:20 UTC+1 (19:20 at Virtual Venue: Seoul, South Korea)


Gordon Barrett (University of Oxford), ‘”The East Is Red, the Sun Is Rising”: Chinese Science Diplomacy, the Cultural Revolution, and the Dongfanghong I Satellite Launch’

In the spring of 1970, China’s first satellite spent twenty days broadcasting ‘The East Is Red’ as it orbited the Earth. Dongfanghong I’s broadcasting of this eponymous revolutionary song reflected the domestic context of China’s Cultural Revolution while simultaneously signalling the People’s Republic’s having established a place among a small group of states to have successfully launched a satellite. The launch came on the cusp of pivot point in China’s foreign and scientific relations as it entered the new decade, providing an opportunity to elucidate this liminal phase in China’s science diplomacy.

Time: 10:25 UTC+1 (18:25 at Virtual Venue: Beijing, China)


Giulia Rispoli (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science), ‘Luna 17: Interplanetary politics in the Cold War’

On 10 November 1970, few months after the Apollo aborted mission, the Soviet Union launched Luna 17 on the moon, a robotic probe carrying the unmanned rover Lunokhod 1, the first remotely controlled robot to land on another celestial planet. Remote observations fostered the study of interplanetary habitability on other worlds and revealed national ideologies and symbolic visions. At the same time, cooperation and rivalry in space shaped international geopolitics on the ground, along with security studies and the discussion on the planetary environment in the Cold War.

Time: 10:30 UTC+1 (12:30 at Virtual Venue: Moscow, Russia)


Doubravka Olsakova (Czech Academy of Sciences), ‘The Brezhnev Doctrine in Outer Space’

50 years ago, the official title Interkosmos was adopted. Soviet space programme turned very soon into a very influential diplomatic tool. After the USSR and USA, the third man in the space was a representative of Czechoslovakia: Vladimír Remek. His choice in March 1978 was a political decision in order to silence all critics of the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia before its 10th anniversary in August 1978.

Time: 10:35 UTC+1 (11:35 at Virtual Venue: Prague, Czech Republic)


Matthew Adamson (McDaniel College), ‘IAEA and Science Diplomacy ca. 1970’

The entry into force of the NPT in March 1970 thrust the IAEA from the periphery to the center of the international system. Given the discriminatory nature of the NPT, this shift amplified the IAEA’s ambiguous status as an agency reinforcing an unequal global order rather than serving the interests of the majority of its (Global South) member states, a source of increasing tension as the 1970s unfolded and the Group of 77 asserted itself. Science diplomacy, however useful, proved incapable of relieving this pressure.

Time: 10:40 UTC+1 (11:40 at Virtual Venue: Vienna, Austria)


Break, 10:45-11:00 (UTC+1)


Schedule Session 2, 11:00-12:00 UTC+1 (Chair: Matthew Adamson)

Gerardo Ienna (University of Venice), ‘Transnational radical physicists and the Varenna Manifesto’

International physics schools had taken place every year in Varenna since 1953, but the 1970 meeting was path-breaking. Dedicated to foundations of quantum mechanics, the proceedings were shook up by a group of physicists who presented a “non-neutrality” manifesto. Also thanks to the school their ideas travelled, informing scientific debates in other countries for the rest of the decade and beyond.

Time 11:00 UTC+1 (12:00 at Virtual Venue: Lake Como, Italy)


Péter Marton (McDaniel College/Corvinus University), ‘The Emerging Occupation of Occupational Health’

By the time of the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act in the United States Congress and its signature into law in December 1970, the International Labour Organization and the World Health Organization had long been promoting occupational health, calling for the training of specialized health personnel worldwide and working to widen the agenda from a narrow focus on industrial workers’ health to a diverse set of issues and the health of all segments of the working population. One finds that during 1970, the WHO supported research projects and academic symposia to this end, in collaboration with governments from the opposing Cold War blocs, in the context of the broader politics of economic, social and cultural rights, permissive economic conditions preceding the oil crises of the 1970s, and agreement across the transnational epistemic community of public health experts about the importance of an extensive interpretation of occupational health.

Time: 11:05 UTC+1 (12:05 at Virtual Venue: Geneva, Switzerland)


Johan Gardebo (KTH, Stockholm), ‘Remote Sensing as Environmental Diplomacy’

In 1970, after a decade of faltering attempts, the Swedish Government mobilised to join the space race. Its use of remote sensing, in particular, illustrates how Sweden used space technology to promote itself as a non-aligned country in pursuit of environmental diplomacy.

Time: 11:10 UTC+1 (12:10 at Virtual Venue: Stockholm, Sweden)


Beatriz Martínez-Rius (Sorbonne University), ‘1970 and the Exploration of “The Last Geographic Frontier”: Oil and International Cooperation in the Mediterranean’s Seafloor’

1970 marked the beginning of the quest for the Mediterranean’s deepest riches, both scientific and economic. As the international Deep Sea Drilling Project recovered seafloor samples for the first time, a number of oil companies began to drill oil-producing wells in the Mediterranean’s continental shelf. As I will argue, both milestones converged – in their origins and motivations – giving rise to a new understanding of marine geosciences.

Time: 11:15 UTC+1 (12:15 at Virtual Venue: Principality of Monaco)


Iqra Choudry (University of Manchester), ‘When Global Science Met Polar Diplomacy’

1970 was the year the Antarctic Treaty formally recognised the importance of meteorological observations from Antarctica feeding into the World Weather Watch programme at the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), which I argue is a culmination of the work done by SCAR during the IGY and the years following it, to coordinate meteorological observations across the remoter parts of the Southern Ocean.

Time: 11:20 UTC+1 (11:20 at Halley Research Station, Antarctica)


Júlia Mascarello (Federal University of Santa Catarina), ‘Science Diplomacy in Brazil in 1970: Science and Technology as a Source for Economic Development’

The year of 1970 marks the development of the first policies in Brazil that include explicit science and technology strategies. Followed by the interest of maintaining its high economic growth and by the need of developing its nuclear and agriculture sectors, Brazil established bilateral agreements specially with Germany and Japan, respectively. At the same time, as a result of the the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the activism of Brazilian Ambassador to the UN Araújo Castro represented a piéce de résistance for autonomy and opposition to the concentration of nuclear capabilities by Security Council members.

Time: 11:25 UTC+1 (08:25 at Virtual Venue: Rio De Janeiro, Brazil)


Sam Robinson (University of Kent), ‘1970: The Peak of Ocean Technology Speculation – Sylvia Earle, The Aquanauts, and Tektite II’

In 1970 anything seemed possible for humankind in the ocean. One project launched that year epitomized this in the placing of a group of female scientists in an underwater habitat in the West Indies, these women changed perceptions, broke records, and succeed where the earlier Sealab had failed. I will argue that they also marked the environmental push back against big industry’s and the military’s impact on global ocean ecosystems. 

Time: 11:30 UTC+1 (08:30 at Virtual Venue: U.S. Virgin Islands)


Leah Aronowsky (Columbia University), ‘”Man’s Impact on the Global Environment”‘

For nearly the entire month of July 1970, a group of 68 preeminent scientists met at MIT to address “man’s impact on the global environment.” Known as the Study of Critical Environmental Problems (SCEP), the group’s immediate goal was to develop recommendations for new, global-scale pollution research programs in advance of the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment. More ambitiously, however, SCEP aspired to serve as a model for international scientific consensus-making about the nature and extent of humanity’s impact on the global environment.

Time: 11:35 UTC+1 (06:35 at Virtual Venue: Boston, USA)


Simone Turchetti (University of Manchester), ‘Did the Study of Science Diplomacy Begin in 1970?’

From 1970 a Science Policy Research unit at the Library of Congress developed the ‘Science, Technology and American Diplomacy’ project – the first comprehensive survey commissioned within congressional activities to assess past, present and future impacts of scientific collaborations for the world power’s relations. Was this the first attempt to map changes in world science which had effectively projected it in the international relations arena? Was it a way for US Congress to ‘monitor’ the growing reliance of US affairs on science and scientific collaborations?

Time: 11:40 UTC+1 (06:40 at Virtual Venue: Washington DC, USA)


Concluding Remarks by Lif Lund Jacobsen (National Archive, Copenhagen)

Time: 11:45 UTC+1 (09:45 at Virtual Venue: Nuuk, Greenland)

Call for Papers: Science Diplomacy – Global Online Workshop and Roundtable

23 July 2020

We are organizing a one-day online workshop and a roundtable discussion on ‘science diplomacy’ (broadly construed and accommodating a variety of scholarly perspectives), to be held online on 23 July 2020. We welcome contributions especially from early career scholars wishing to exchange ideas, debate role of science in international diplomacy and vice versa, and explore the contribution of the science diplomacy scholarship to transnational/global histories. We would especially welcome contributions from scholars in countries and regions of the world that are less represented so as to promote a truly global dialogue across countries and continents.

In the workshop, we will ask each presenter to give a 10-minute presentation, which will be followed by a 10-minute discussion. To accommodate the time difference among participants from various parts of the globe, we will host the workshop in two slots, i.e. the ‘morning slot’ (approx. 9-11am GMT) and the ‘late afternoon slot’ (approx. 4-6pm GMT). We will try to accommodate the presenters’ time needs as much as possible.

The one-day event will have a rich programme also comprising a roundtable discussion on methodological issues, with a specific focus on the availability and accessibility of sources related to science diplomacy, and its impact on the current and future scholarship and teaching in the field (also in light of the COVID-19 crisis). It will also comprise the Commission’s Annual General Meeting that every participant is welcome to attend.

We invite submissions of proposals which should include: a title, abstract (200 words max), a short CV (150 max) and the information on your time zone to Aya Homei by Wednesday, 24 June 2020.

Call for Papers: Prague ICHST2021 Symposia Proposals

We invite paper proposals under the two panels proposed below for ICHST2021. If enough applications are received we will make multiple three/four paper panels under each proposal. Please submit an abstract of 200 words to Dr Sam Robinson at samrobinsonphd [at] gmail [dot] com by the 15th May 2020.

Proposed Panel #1: They Might Be Giants: Lesser Power and Alternative Channel Efforts in Science Diplomacy

The growing literature on science diplomacy is only now beginning to loosen itself from the grip of hegemony-dominated narratives. This symposium proposes to accelerate that process by examining carefully new accounts that focus not on leading nations dominating most accounts, but on actors from smaller countries, nations in geographical ‘peripheries’ and as well as grassroot organizations and outsiders. By doing so, we hope to discover histories that show science diplomacy not only as a tool for flexing hegemonic muscles and maintaining established order, but also one for subverting hierarchies, asserting independence, and building coalitions among other non-superpower or imperial actors. In doing so, this symposium aims to reconsider the structures and outcomes of science diplomacy, emphasising the agency and influence of those actors commonly considered to be on the receiving end or typically overlooked in the conventional portrayal of science diplomacy activities. It also challenges centre-periphery narratives and proposes other configurations in which science diplomacy can be observed, configurations in which international and non-governmental organizations figure as more central actors.

Proposed Panel #2: They Might Be Giants: Histories of Failed Science Diplomacy Initiatives

The growing literature on science diplomacy has tended to return repeatedly to canonical cases of success: for example, the creation of CERN, the management of IGY 1957-58, or, more recently, the series of Malta conferences. However, the history of science diplomacy also includes important examples of initiatives and the goals behind which went unrealized. Just as discredited or abandoned models or theories have proved highly valuable sites of exploration for historians of science examining the processes and dynamics of knowledge creation, so too can failed initiatives provide opportunities to further understand the nature of science diplomacy.

This symposium aims to examine such historical examples of “failure” and cases of “what might have been”, in order to enrich the historical picture of science diplomacy as well as to better inform today’s science diplomacy advocates and practitioners. 

Update: ‘Asia in Histories of Science Diplomacy’ Conference

In light of current uncertainties and travel restrictions relating to the global spread of COVID-19, we have taken the difficult decision to postpone the ‘Asia in Histories of Science Diplomacy’ conference. We are currently working on alternative arrangements for holding it at a later date and will provide further information once it becomes available.

CfP: Asia in Science Diplomacy

2nd Annual Conference of the DHST Commission on Science, Technology and Diplomacy

co-sponsored by The Pacific Circle

10-12 July 2020 | Beijing, China

The last decade has seen increasing interest in the concept, practice, and history of science diplomacy in international affairs during the modern period. Such discussions and debates have been dominated by ‘Western’ perspectives, tending to focus on the agency, activities, and influence of actors from Europe and North America. Yet, the danger of treating the ‘Euro-American’ context and norms as defaults against which non-Western ones are measured can often implicitly underpin or reinforce problematic value-judgements, as Phalkey and Lam (2016) have argued in relation to the wider history of science, technology, and medicine.

Building on the global focus of the DHST Commission of Science, Technology and Diplomacy’s first conference in 2019, this conference will centre on Asia, emphasising the agency, activities, and influence of Asian actors within both the intra- and inter-regional contexts of what we call today science diplomacy. We wish to address a number of interconnected questions including: what would be gained through looking at Asian history through the lenses of science diplomacy? What actors, processes, regions and activities would these new narratives encompass? Could these reflections lead to re-consider the concept and meanings of science diplomacy? 

In order to address these questions, we invite contributions exploring the entangled histories of science, technology and diplomacy in Asia. We expect contributions to involve or engage with:

  • nationalism, regionalism and/or internationalism in STM
  • official and unofficial/informal diplomatic channels
  • colonialism, imperialism and anti-imperialism, decolonisation, and development
  • alliances, non-alignment, and ‘South-South’ cooperation
  • state and non-state actors (including religious, commercial and industrial actors, international organisations, transnational networks, and party-to-party relations

We invite submission of paper proposals which include:
a title, abstract (300 words maximum), and a short CV (150 words maximum)
to Gordon Barrett (gordon[.]barrett [at]history[.]ox[.]ac[.]uk) by 30 January 2020.

Co-hosted by:
Department of History of Science, Technology and Medicine of Peking University
School of Humanities of the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences