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2012 Workshop: Cold War, Blue Planet

From June 27, 2012 until June 29, 2012
CHSTM, University of Manchester

Cold War/Blue Planet

The rise of the Environmental Sciences in a Divided World

Manchester, 27-29 June 2012

In 1968 photographic images taken from the spacecraft Apollo 8 led to envision the Earth as a “blue marble” and their beauty inspired many. As these images were taken –however- the planet was fraught with conflict. The ongoing Vietnam War was by then creating mounting unrest for its human and environmental consequences. And the whole planet was under the threat of nuclear Armageddon. The stark contrast between the earth’s representation, “the blue planet” and its reality, “the Cold War”, are telling of the inner tension between the aspiration to better know the earth and –at the same time- that to exploit this knowledge in the conflict between Superpowers. Indeed these ambitions are characteristic of this tense period in the history of humanity.

Scholars with interests as far afield as history, geography, intelligence, international relations, science and technology and the environment (just to mention a few) 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.

Yet, if the details of these scientific activities are now partly understood, much remains to be known about the motives behind this growth. In particular we need to know a great deal about the institutional set up that nurtured this development. In recent years –also thanks to the availability of previously restricted archive materials- we have learnt that the investment in earth studies was considered critical to the Superpowers’ strategic planning and national security. It also paralleled similar investments to foster international collaborative programs in all the areas of the world, partly through military alliances such as NATO, SEATO and CENTO. It coincided with the setting up of science and technology branches within intelligence and diplomatic organizations of many countries. Yet much work remains to be done to understand the inner motives that brought together scientists, politicians, diplomats and intelligence operators in planning and coordinating earth and environmental studies.

It is with the idea of filling this gap in mind that we are inviting you to participate in our workshop “Blue Planet-Cold War”. We would like to stimulate an examination of the science-policy-intelligence networks that propelled research on the earth and the environment during the Cold War from different perspectives. We aim to bring together worldwide experts from several disciplines and pave the way to forging a new synthesis. We are looking for contributions that want to address a number of relevant and related questions including: What kind of national and international networks did leading research organisations rely upon in shaping earth and environmental studies? To what extent did diplomatic urgencies and alliances make the sponsorship of earth studies pliable to foreign affairs? Was the growth of earth studies associated with the needs of intelligence-gathering? What kind of knowledge was produced and to what ends?

We believe such a coordinated effort would be of great importance not just to advance scholarly research on the Cold War period, but also to understand its legacy. In particular if we know a great deal about current preoccupation with climatic and environmental changes, we know far less on how the sponsorship regime defined by the Cold War helped scientists to gather vital data and develop new modelling now considered critical to the scientific analysis of these changes.

The meeting will also be an important component in the development of the TEUS (The Earth Under Surveillance) project. Established in 2009 and funded by the European Research Council, TEUS explores the history of scientific studies of the earth and the environment, especially by examining how the Cold War shaped funding and research trajectories. Among its innovative features is a focus on the interplay and mutual shaping of the geosciences and national security/intelligence programmes.


Wednesday 27 June @ Chancellors

Welcome, 5pm

5.00-6.00 Greetings and Reception by Michael Worboys and Simone Turchetti

Thursday 28 June @ Chancellors

Space (chairperson: Paul Edwards, 9.00-11.00)

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), TBA, but on the Kiruna Geophysical Observatory

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

Coffee break (11.00-11.30)

Soil (chairperson: Jeff Hughes, 11.30-13.00)

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

Lunch (13.00-14.00) and transfer to the CHSTM

Ice (chairperson: Jim Fleming, 14.00-16.00)

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), TBA but Norway and the Antarctic

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

Coffee Break (16.00-16.30)

Minerals (chairperson: Kristine Harper, 13.30-14.30)

Leucha Veneer/Roberto Cantoni (University of Manchester), TBA on oil in France, Italy and Britain?

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), Nestor Herran (UPMC, Paris), Simone Turchetti (University of Manchester), From the Ground Up: Uranium and Atomic Energy in Western European Countries


Friday 29 June @ Chancellors

Water (chairperson: Naomi Oreskes, 9.00-11.00)

Sam Robinson (University of Manchester)/Gunnar Ellingsen (University of Bergen), TBA on Sea Research in Norway and Britain

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

Peder Roberts (University of Strasbourg), Nordic oceanographers in a time of change: Hans Pettersson and Anton Bruun

Coffee Break (11.00-11.30)

Air (chairperson: Ron Doel, 11.30-13.30)

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

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

Lunch (13.30-14.30)

Humans (chairperson: Matthias Heymann, 16.30-18.30)

Simone Turchetti (University of Manchester), “In God We Trust, All Others We Monitor”: US/UK intelligence-sharing in monitoring the Soviet atomic programme, 1950-1965

Richard Aldrich (University of Nottingham), GCHQ, ICL and IBM: Codebreakers as Consultants

Nestor Herran (UPMC, Paris), Monitoring Fallout Radiocarbon: the Cold War and the Carbon Cycle

Coffee Break, 14.30-15.00

Roundtable (chairperson: Jeff Hughes (University of Manchester), 15.00-16.45)

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

Public Lecture (17.00-19.30) @ Imperial War Museum North

Naomi Oreskes (UCSD, California, US), The Cold War and Historical Causality: Getting Past the 'Miasma' Problem

20.00 Dinner @ Chancellors Hotel

Indications for travel to venues:

1. Chancellors Hotel and Conference Centre (Chancellors Way, Off Moseley Road, Fallowfield, Manchester, M14 6ZT)

How to reach Chancellors Hotel by bus, train and plane:

2. Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Manchester (Brunswick Street, Manchester, M13 9PL)

The CHSTM is in the 2nd floor of Simon Building (Building 59 in the University map. See here:

How to reach University by train:

by bus:

by plane:

3. Imperial War Museum North (The Quays, Trafford Wharf Road, Manchester M17 1TZ)

How to reach IWMN by bus and train:

4. General information of visiting Manchester and Tourist Attractions:

Please note that we will arrange transfers between venues for participants so the information above is provided only in case you are planning to reach one of the venues by independent means of transportation.