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)

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