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Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

Cold War/Blue Planet: the rise of the environmental sciences in a divided world

University of Manchester, Wednesday 27 - Friday 29 June 2012

In 1968, the beauty of photographic images taken from the spacecraft Apollo 8 led to visions of the Earth as a “blue marble”, to be defended and protected. As these images were taken, however, the planet was fraught with conflict. The ongoing Vietnam War was creating mounting unrest, and the whole planet was under the threat of nuclear Armageddon. This stark contrast indicates the inner tension in projects to understand the Earth.

Scholars with interests as far afield as history, geography, intelligence, international relations, science and technology and the environment have begun to recognize that the Cold War contributed to expand the study of the earth to an unprecedented level. The sponsorship of new research propelled the understanding of oceans, the atmosphere, the solid earth, remote geographical locations, Polar Regions, the earth’s gravity and magnetic fields and many other features of our planet.

This meeting, organised as part of the Earth Under Surveillance (TEUS) project, aims to stimulate examination of the science-policy-intelligence networks that propelled research on the earth and the environment during the Cold War, paving the way to forging a new synthesis.

Poster for this event (pdf)


There is no charge to attend the workshop, but all attendees must register in advance so that we can make venue planning arrangements. To register, or if you have any queries, please contact the lead organiser, Dr Simone Turchetti.

The venues for the meeting include CHSTM and the Chancellor's Hotel: full details will be provided directly to attendees.

Friday's public lecture by Jim Fleming is held at the Imperial War Museum North. This is a free, open public event: there is no need to register.


Wednesday 27 June

17.00-18.00 Greetings and Reception


Thursday 28 June

Space (chair: Ron Doel, 9.00-10.45)

Gregory Good (Centre for History of Physics, AIP, Maryland)
The Last Environmental Frontier: Project Argus, Space Weather, and the Cold War at the Edge of Space

Sverker Sörlin (KTH, Stockholm)
Cold War Functions of a Neutral Space: The Kiruna Geophysical Observatory in the 1950s and 1960s

Roger Launius (Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC)
Space Technology and the Rise of the US Surveillance State


Air (chair: Kristine Harper, 11.00-12.10)

Paul Edwards (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)
Computers, Global Data, and Cold War: Making Climate Knowledge, 1945-1960 and 1980-1990

Vladimir Jankovic (University of Manchester)
Urban Airs, Ground Layer Turbulence and the Dispersal of Microclimatological Research in the United States, 1947-1967


Humans (chair: Jeff Hughes, 14.00-15.10)

Simone Turchetti (University of Manchester)
“In God We Trust, All Others We Monitor”: Seismology, Intelligence and the Test Ban Negotiations, 1957-1963

Néstor Herran (UPMC, Paris)
Monitoring the Bomb and the Carbon Cycle: Early European Researches on Fallout Radiocarbon, 1958-1970


Soil (chair: Matthias Heymann, 15.30-16.40)

Jacob Hamblin (Oregon State University, Corvallis)
Contaminated Soil, Vulnerable People: Monitoring Radioactivity at FAO in the 1960s

Soraya Boudia (University of Strasbourg)
Transnational Systems for the Surveillance and Monitoring of the Environment: Technologies and Geopolitics of Globalisation


The Earth (in pictures) (chair: Paul Edwards, 17.00-18.10)

Robert Poole (University of Cumbria, Carlisle)
What was Whole about the Whole Earth?

Nina Wormbs (KTH, Stockholm)
Eyes on the Ice: Satellite Remote Sensing and the Narratives of Visualized Data


Friday 29 June


Minerals (chair: Roy Macleod, 9.00-10.45)

Leucha Veneer and Roberto Cantoni (University of Manchester)
Security and Oil Prospecting: National and International Tensions in supplying Cold War Britain and France

Henry Nielsen, Henrik Knudsen and Matthias Heymann (University of Aarhus)
Too hot to Handle: the Controversial Hunt for Uranium in Greenland in the early Cold War

Matthew Adamson (McDaniel College, Budapest), Lino Camprubi (UAB, Barcelona), Simone Turchetti (University of Manchester)
From the Ground Up: Uranium and Atomic Energy in Western European Countries


Water (chair: Jacob Hamblin, 11.00-12.45)

Kristine C. Harper (Florida State University, Tallahassee)
Keeping the Cold War Home Front Strong: Water for National Defense

Sam Robinson (University of Manchester) and Gunnar Ellingsen (University of Bergen)
The Reconstruction and Restoration of Oceanography in Britain and Norway during the Early Cold War

Peder Roberts (University of Strasbourg)
Intelligence and internationalism: the Cold War career of Anton Bruun


Ice (chair: Peder Roberts, 14.00-15.45)

Ron Doel (Florida State University, Tallahassee)
Guided Missiles, Submarines, and the Physical Environmental Sciences: Reshaping Landscapes in the Cold War North

Robert Marc Friedman (University of Oslo)
Norway and the Antarctic

Janet Martin Nielsen (University of Aarhus)
Science in spaces under the ice: Greenland's Camp Century, 1959-1966 (paper read by Matthias Heymann).


Roundtable (chair: Jeff Hughes, 16.00-17.00)

Charting the Cold War Environmental Sciences: What are the Still Unexplored Frontiers?


Public Lecture (17.30-19.30), Imperial War Museum North

Jim Fleming (Colby College)
Cold War Technologies for Weaponizing the Atmosphere: From Cloud Wars to Geo-Engineering


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