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Week 18: Cold War science and technology, 1945-1991. Ideology.

As the Iron Curtain descended over Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War, the nature and role of science was impacted by ideological tensions between East and West. Both a weapon of conflict and a marker of ideological superiority, the scientific battleground represented one of the most significant ‘fronts’ of the Cold War. This seminar will explore the nature of Cold War science, and consider how these ideological frameworks shaped how science was understood and practiced.

Seminar Questions

  • How did the context of the Cold War shape the science that was practiced in the USSR and the West?
  • What role did science play in Soviet and Western understandings of state and society and visions of the future?
  • Did scientists seek to resist the ideologization of their discipline?

Essential Reading

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, Aviation (1953)

Slava Gerovitch, ‘“Mathematical Machines” of the Cold War: Soviet Computing, American Cybernetics and Ideological Disputes in the Early 1950s’, in Social Studies of Science 31, no. 2 (April 2001), pp. 253-287.

Ethan Pollock, Stalin and the Soviet Science Wars (Princeton Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2008), Introduction.

Further Reading

Aronova, Elena, and Simone Turchetti, Science Studies during the Cold War and Beyond: Paradigms Defected (Springer, 2016)

Birstein, V.J., The Perversion of Knowledge: The True Story of Soviet Science (Westview Press, 2001)

Byrnes, R.F., Soviet–American Academic Exchanges, 1958–1975, (Indiana University Press, 1976)

David-Fox, M., Showcasing the Great Experiment: Cultural Diplomacy and Western Visitors to the Soviet Union, 1921–1941 (Oxford University Press, 2012)

Hollings, Christopher, Mathematics across the Iron Curtain: A History of the Algebraic Theory of Semigroups (American Mathematical Society, 2014)

Hollings, Christopher D., Scientific Communication Across the Iron Curtain (Springer, 2015)

Fainberg, Dina, and Artemy M. Kalinovsky, Reconsidering Stagnation in the Brezhnev Era: Ideology and Exchange (Lexington Books, 2016)

Gerovitch, S., From Newspeak to Cyberspeak: A History of Soviet Cybernetics (MIT Press, 2002)

Graham, Loren, Science in Russia and the Soviet Union: A Short History (Cambridge University Press, 1993)

Krementsov, Nikolai, Stalinist Science (Princeton University Press, 1997)

Krementsov, Nikolai, The Cure: A Story of Cancer and Politics from the Annals of the Cold War (University of Chicago Press, 2002)

Krementsov, Nikolai, International Science between the World Wars: The Case of Genetics (Routledge, 2005)

Kuznick, P.J., Beyond the Laboratory: Scientists as Political Activists in 1930s America (University Chicago Press, 1987)

Oreskes, Naomi, and John Krige, Science and Technology in the Global Cold War (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2014)

Pollock, Ethan, Stalin and the Soviet Science Wars (Princeton Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2008)

Richmond, Y., Cultural Exchange and the Cold War: Raising the Iron Curtain (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003)

Schweitzer, G.E., Techno-diplomacy: US-Soviet Confrontations in Science and Technology (Plenum Press, 1989)

Siegelbaum, Lewis. "Sputnik Goes to Brussels: The Exhibition of a Soviet Technological Wonder." Journal of Contemporary History 47, no. 1 (2012), pp. 120-36.

Somsen, G. J. ‘A history of universalism: conceptions of the internationality of science from the Enlightenment to the Cold War’, in Minerva 46 (2008), pp. 361–379.

Wolfe, A.J.: Competing with the Soviets: Science, Technology, and the State in Cold War America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013) .