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Prussian Academy of Sciences

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Entrance to the former Prussian Academy of Sciences on Unter Den Linden 8. Today it houses the Berlin State Library.
Entrance to the former Prussian Academy of Sciences on Unter Den Linden 8. Today it houses the Berlin State Library.

The Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences (German: Königlich-Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften) was an academy established in Berlin, Germany on 11 July 1700, four years after the Akademie der Künste, or "Arts Academy," to which "Berlin Academy" may also refer.[1][2][3] In the 18th century, it was a French-language institution, and its most active members were Huguenots who had fled religious persecution in France.

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  • Science and the First World War (26 June 2014)
  • Luther and the Protestant Reformation: Crash Course World History #218
  • Education Is a System of Indoctrination of the Young - Noam Chomsky


Welcome to the last of four very illuminating lectures that UCL have been having last week and this week, I think. And this is the fourth and last one. I'm Richard Norton-Taylor, a Guardian veteran. I've been covering wars and peace pieces when I was in Brussels, actually, for about ten years, covering NATO and the European Union, quite close to the Flanders fields. What's happening? Something's happening at Ypres today, I think, too. A sort of verbal war, I think. Anyway, I'm delighted to welcome Jon Agar, Professor of Science and Technology Studies at UCL. He's a historian of recent science and technology. His books include 'Constant Touch: a Global History of the Mobile Phone' and 'Science in the 20th Century and Beyond'. He's currently researching a project on science under Margaret Thatcher. But today, he's talking about science in the First World War. I should say that the lecture will be streamed live and has the hash tag: #UCLLHL and we should have 15 minutes or so, before 2 o'clock for questions and answers. Over to you, Jon. Let's get started. Let me start with an image. This is the British surrealist war painter, Paul Nash's 'We Are Making a New World', a painting from 1918. The sun is rising - or is it setting? - on a devastated landscape. It's a bitter and disturbing image, an equal of his master work, 'The Menin Road', which you can see at the Imperial War Museum. And its title, 'We Are Making a New World', is of course ironic. Now, I start with it because there's probably no force in society more associated with the making of new worlds than science. Science, at least since the Enlightenment, has been associated with progress. In Britain, since Francis Bacon first had that association, it was a commonplace of Victorian and Edwardian culture. But in the 20th century, Science has been driven and has been transformed by war. And the First World War provides very powerful illustrations of the extreme tensions that those roles generated. So you get some quite profound and troubling questions. Was science going to be a force for construction or destruction? Science was meant to transcend national boundaries. So, if you go back to the Napoleonic wars for example, although science was disrupted, it carried on. Letters, ideas, discoveries were passed around Europe and as soon as the Napoleonic wars finished, that cordial relationship started again and was a feature of the 19th century. So in the 19th century, a lot of international scientific organisations were set up, that reflected the need for science to organise internationally. But it also reflected an idea that science wasn't something that was going to be defined by national boundaries. The First World War tore that accord down. Science was recruited enthusiastically to national causes. It also raised other questions: How should the scientists be used during warfare? How should science be organised efficiently? And the relations that we have now between science and State - things like the Research Council system or the idea of a science policy - they're all born from the experience of the First World War. Now, what I'm going to do is talk about five scientists to show how some of those themes worked out in a more personal way. So I'll be talking about the lives and one death of five individual scientists and that's who you can see on the screen here. On the top left-hand side, we see Henry Moseley. On the top right-hand side, does anyone recognise who that is? - Ernest Rutherford. - Exactly. In the middle we see... Anyone? - Fritz Haber. - Fritz Haber. We're delighted to have Fritz Haber's relative with us today. And on the bottom left-hand side, we see Einstein, a face that everyone recognises. But that's a youthful Einstein. That's an Einstein of the 1910s. The time when he'd begun to publish his relativity theories. In fact, by the First World War, he was Director of one of the major German institutes of science. And the bottom right-hand side. I don't know if anyone recognises him. That's Arthur Eddington, one of the most famous scientists of the 20th century, and a great populariser of science. But he's the figure that I'll end with. So I'm going to start in the top left-hand corner and that's Henry Gwyn Jeffreys Moseley. He was born in England in 1887, he goes to Eton. Now, the public schools are not famous for their science, but Eton had laboratories. He goes on from Eton to Oxford and gets a degree in 1910, just four years before the First World War. Now, he is an outstanding young physicist and he goes to work in Manchester with Ernest Rutherford, who we've already seen. And some of the most remarkable science of the 20th century is going on in Manchester. Ernest Rutherford is exploring the new Physics. The new Physics is trying to figure out experimentally and theoretically what a host of newly-discovered phenomena were about. Phenomena like radioactivity, X-rays, new particles, like the electron, understanding what the atom was. Now, Ernest Rutherford, who was a barrel-chested, big-voiced man, a very dominant presence, was the one who had come to... He was a New Zealander. He'd come to Britain via Canada. At Manchester, he was exploring the atom experimentally. And he was proposing a new model of the atom, an atom with a nucleus. Also in Manchester at the time, was a young Dane called Niels Bohr. Niels Bohr, theoretician, was explaining theoretically how Rutherford's atom might be stable. So it's a very exciting time for Physics, and into that fast-moving stream of science steps Henry Moseley, still a very young man. In 1912, he's exploring the strength of X-rays and he notices a very interesting phenomenon: the feature that X-rays, which are produced by bombarding different substances and X-ray tubes... The X-rays you get out of it seem to depend on the target of bombardment. And the stronger X-rays seem to come from heavier elements. Now he pictures this, and you can see it in a graph on the right, and it's a remarkably clean graph. It's an incredibly productive experiment. To cut a long story short, what he's able to show is that those experiments fit the idea of Rutherford's nuclear atom. There's all kinds of consequences of that. He makes predictions of elements that are only found later in the 20th century. This is really quite exciting research, it's research of a Nobel quality. But Moseley would never receive the prize. At the outbreak of war, Moseley, who was a Signals Officer, immediately volunteered. He was in Australia, at a meeting, at the time. He rushes back. And, of course, he was like many young men. He rallied to a patriotic cause. He was posted to Gallipoli, and there, on the Dardanelles he was, on 10th August 1915, whilst telephoning an order to his division, hit by a Turkish sniper's bullet to the head, and he died instantly. So, in the National Archives, you can find this. This is the death notice that records in quite bleak terms the death in Gallipoli of Henry Gwynn Jeffreys Moseley, on 10th August 1915. This is a notice that appears in the Manchester Guardian. It's signed by E.R., Ernest Rutherford. And it points out just how... It points out the fact of death, but also what a tragic loss this was. The death of a brilliant physicist. Just as the death of the war poets - Isaac Rosenberg's and Wilfred Owen's - came to stand for the untimely slaughter of young artistic talent, so the death of Moseley was held by contemporaries to be a wasteful sacrifice of the brightest and best in science. The great American physicist, Robert Millikan, called it, "One of the most hideous and irreparable crimes in history." Ernest Rutherford said this: "To use such a man as a subaltern was economically equivalent "to using the Lusitania "to carry a pound of butter from Ramsgate to Margate." The Lusitania, of course, was the steamer ship that was carrying mostly civilians and was sunk by a U-boat. A scientist's role in the First World War was not primarily a sacrificial victim, nor was it best characterised as the contribution of individual genius. Instead, along with all the other factors deemed to be strategically important for total war, science was mobilised in an increasingly organised fashion. And actually, Rutherford's language in this quotation is quite significant. Just as the great civilian steamers should be requisitioned as supply ships, and used in the most efficient manner, so scientists should be organised and put to work. Moseley had been offered work at home. But he'd chosen to fight abroad, responding to the patriotic fervour that he shared with many. And the complaint was not that bodies should be sent to the front, and, if necessary, die, but rather, by putting his brain in the line of fire of a Turkish bullet, he was not being deployed efficiently or effectively enough. Now that kind of argument... ..had been hammered by the science lobby for quite some time. And it was getting louder and louder still during the First World War, as the expectations for a very quick war diminished and the trench warfare and stalemate set in. Here's a Times article from 1916. It's called 'Neglect of Science', and by the complaint, 'neglect of science', what's going on essentially is this is signed by a host of senior scientists and their worry is that the lack of sustained mobilisation of science, informed by scientists, was endangering victory. So, in this we find lots of... They point out absurdities, for example the fact that until quite late, England was exporting lard to Germany. Now, lard... You can get glycerine from lard and from glycerine, you get nitro-glycerine. So essentially the shells of Germany were being filled by the product of English kitchens. They point out absurdities - things that could easily be fixed. But the point is that what was not happening was organisation, was the following of scientists' proper, informed advice. They also call in this article for a ministry of science, which has never really happened in this country. But, in fact, a step change in organisation was already under way by 1916. The Department of Scientific Industrial Research, essentially the British Research Council system, was being set up. Both the Ministry of Munitions and the Admiralty were setting up boards for scientists to offer advice and to guide invention. So, the Board of Invention and Research under Admiral Jackie Fisher was set up in July 1915, and it brought in a stellar array of talent. Senior scientific talent, including Ernest Rutherford, the discoverer of the electron, J. J. Thomson, the X-rayer Christopher Lockfeld William Bragg, also chemists, also engineers, also metallurgists and others. The key issue that they were there to investigate was countering the threat from the U-boats. Sinking merchant ships at will. The surface fleet was pretty much bottled up but the U-boats were striking all over the world. What comes out of this is both practical and organisational. Practically, there are a lot of experiments. This is from the National Archives and you can see these are notes taken by A. B. Wood from Rutherford. Rutherford was working very closely on the science and experiments of sound under water and what's coming out of that are practical techniques to listen out under water for submarines. If you can't see submarines visually, perhaps you can hear and find out where they are. So that, along with convoys, is one of the crucial techniques for countering the U-boats. So practical and organisational work, and a network of research stations is set up, which carries on throughout the 20th century. It's quite critical for 20th-century science. Now turning away from Britain to Germany, the mobilisation of science for war was also a feature of Germany. I'll tell you the story of my third scientist, the chemist Fritz Haber, in some detail because in one life you can see the strains and stresses of science for war. Here is Fritz Haber. I'm going to start with a couple of quotations that illustrate the two aspects, two very influential aspects, of Haber's life. So the first quotation is from Max von Laue. Max von Laue is a physicist, a senior German physicist, and he writes an obituary of Haber in 1934. And what he writes in this obituary is as follows: "Haber will go down in history as the ingenious inventor "of the process for combining nitrogen with hydrogen. "As the man who by this means won bread from air "and achieved a triumph in the service of all humanity." What does he mean by that? What he's describing is a solution to what was seen around the turn of the 19th to the 20th century as perhaps one of the biggest problems that humanity faced, and that was how do you feed the world when you have a growing population but you also have diminishing fertile soil? Now, you can fertilise soil with fertilisers and one of the main sources of fertiliser is nitrates. We need nitrogen. The air is full of nitrogen, but it's almost unusable so you have to find nitrogen in other forms. It was found in the form of nitrates, which were dug from mines, or from guano, which is the product of birds, which was dug up and was very rich in nitrates and that could also be used. However, the nitrate mines were in places like Chile. They could be disrupted during warfare. And the guano was generally known to be running out. So what Haber was to work on was a method of fixing nitrogen, what is known as the Haber-Bosch Process. I'll tell you a little bit about that in a second, but it gives a mechanism for producing nitrates, which could be used as fertilisers, but it could also be used as explosives. The second quotation comes from a biographer of Haber, Daniel Charles. He says, "Haber lived the life of a modern Faust, "willing to serve any master" - that was one master - "who could further his passion for knowledge and progress. "He was not an evil man. "His defining traits "- loyalty, intelligence, generosity, industry, creativity - "are as prized today as they were during his lifetime. "His goals were conventional ones: "to solve problems, to prosper, to serve his country. "And this is what makes his story tragic, "for those goals, however familiar and defensible, "led down twisting paths towards destruction." By 'destruction', Charles is pointing to the second of Haber's most influential projects, which was chemical warfare. The production of poisoned gas and its use in warfare, which is one of the most defining images and facts of the First World War. So, let's have a look in a little more detail at Haber's life. So, young Haber. Born in Breslau, Prussia, in 1868, a few years before German unification, now Wrocław in Poland. From a Jewish family. Mother dies a few weeks after Fritz's birth of complications. His father is a dye merchant and is never that affectionate, according to his biographers. I love this picture because you can see the rifle and it's easy to project forward, I think, from there. It's quite significant. The family life, I've just described, but he attends gymnasium, which is German secondary school. His grades are OK, not fantastic, but in his exams he does give a fantastic oral presentation. He was clearly someone who was extremely articulate and persuasive as a person. He's able to go to the University of Berlin in 1886, and he chooses to study Chemistry. The choice is really quite significant. Chemistry is the foundation of the strength of imperial Germany. With the dye-stuffs industry, essentially taking products of the coal industry - coal tars, getting dyes out of them, understanding those dyes chemically - is the birth of organic Chemistry, and leads to the chemical industry. Very, very powerful. The second scientific and revolution industry and bolsters the strength of Germany as a scientific and industrial power. So it's quite a significant choice. The other thing that young Haber has to do is do his military service. All young Germans had to. You had a choice: you did three years or, if you paid money, you could do one year. Haber chose to pay and do one year. However, once he was in the army, he loved it. He began to talk, walk and speak like a soldier. So much so that he actually looked into having a full-time military career, but he was rejected, probably for anti-Semitic reasons. So having been thwarted in that choice, what would he do? Well, he was looking for an academic Chemistry position. For some time, he had no luck. Eventually, his dad finds him an industrial placement, and he gets to know how industry works. He knows how the military, how the industry and how academic science work. That combination is very significant. Eventually, he's able to get a position at the University of Jena, a very junior post, in 1892. Also in 1892, he's baptised. He's officially a Christian. Unusual, but not rare, and biographers have argued about why that might have been. In 1901, he marries Clara Immerwahr. Clara is a very interesting figure. Her background is almost identical to Fritz's. She's from Breslau's Jewish community, she has a remarkable education, by her own willpower, she gets to Breslau University, takes her degree in 1900, and that's without being allowed to attend gymnasium - secondary school. It's like going to university without being able to go to secondary school. So quite an incredible achievement. She's looking for a career in science, so the marriage to Fritz creates a bit of a crisis. She has to make a choice between being a housewife and a scientific career. So there are tensions there. By that time, Haber is at the Technical University of Karlsruhe. Karlsruhe has got very close connections between both the local German states and with the chemical industry, particularly the company BASF, which is still with us. It's one of the biggest chemical companies in the world. It's that combination at Karlsruhe that Haber is able to draw on to work on the fixation of hydrogen. At a speech at the opening of Haber's laboratory, the Rector of the university, Carl Engler, points out that one of the duties of the chemist is to focus on such problems as the Nitrogen Problem. So he has resources, he has direction and this is where he works. And indeed, by 1909, he's able to come up with an experiment which passes gases - nitrogen, hydrogen - at high temperatures over a catalyst and is able to produce ammonium. From ammonia, you can get nitrates so this is a solution to the problem. The problem remaining though, is scaling up. How do you go from laboratory work to full-scale production? And this is where Carl Bosch comes in, in the Haber-Bosch process. Carl Bosch is a BASF Chemical Engineer and sees the ways of scaling up. Scaling up is incredibly important because scaling up is going to produce the food that could feed the world. By one calculation, the Haber-Bosch Process feeds two billion people in the 20th century. But also, scaling up in the First World War means a scaling up in the production of nitrates for explosives. So the Haber-Bosch Process in effect allows Germany to prolong the war, by filling the artillery shells. And this is the first indirect, but massively important influence of Haber on the First World War. The second is, of course, chemical warfare and I'll come to that. But let's just first see how Haber reacts to the opening of hostilities. As you know, the First World War opens with the Schlieffen Plan, which is an attempt to very quickly knock out France before turning to fighting Russia. And that involves, in the end, moving forces through Belgium and that creates atrocities and accusations of atrocities. The German intellectual elite respond by issuing a manifesto... civilisation, to the cultured world. It's called the Manifesto of 93 because it's signed by 93 people, but in here, it starts by saying: "As representatives of German Science and Art, "we hereby protest the civilised world against the lies and slander "with which our enemies are endeavouring "to stain the honour of Germany "in her hard struggle for existence." It's slightly Darwinian language. And it goes on: "It's not true that Germany was to blame for the war, "it's not true that Belgium has been harmed, "it's not true that there have been atrocities...", and so on. It's signed by 93. These are all the names. Please don't read them all, but I've picked out a few in red, just because there are some very interesting names there. These are some of the very famous names of science, but there are equally important figures from the Arts. Max Planck from quantum mechanics, Wilhelm Röntgen, discoverer of X-rays, the great chemist Wilhelm Ostwald, Ernst Haeckel, who is by the far the most important Darwinian in Europe, and so on. It's a very, very influential list. And the people who signed this... This causes immense rupture in the scientific community. This is one of the causes, after the First World War, of scientists refusing to meet each other. Germans meeting French... That internationalism is ruptured by acts such as this. And you'll see in the top right area the name Fritz Haber. He was one of the signatures of the Manifesto of the 93. One of the names you won't see there is Haber's friend... ..another Director or the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics, Albert Einstein on the right-hand side. Albert Einstein, who was a pacifist really... He refused not only to sign it, he also put his name to a sort of counter-manifesto. The Manifesto of 93 was published. It was well-known throughout the world. The counter-manifesto, which was called the Manifesto for Europeans, had four signatures. And it may not even have been published, we're not quite sure. It was organised by Georg Friedrich Nicolai and, basically, it made an entirely opposite case. Not a nationalistic one, but one appealing to scientists and others across the world to say the world, in this period of conflict, needs to move towards European organisation, perhaps world organisation, if there is to be peace. "Never before has any war "so completely disrupted cultural cooperation. "It's done so at the time when progress and technology and communications "clearly suggest that we recognise the need for international relations "which will necessarily move "in the direction of a universal, worldwide civilisation." An entirely different set of values and very much a minority one. So, Haber and poisoned gas. The 1899 Hague Peace Conference had said that nations should abstain from the use of projectiles which had the sole object of diffusing asphyxiating gases. And similar prohibitions were signed before the First World War. However, as the mobile war became stuck in the trenches, and there became a desperate search for innovations of ways past that stalemate, all sides began to turn to gases. So sneezing gas was used very early on, in 1914. It was entirely useless, people didn't even notice it had been deployed. Tear gas was used by the British in the Autumn of 1914, and Haber witnessed the use of tear gas in a demonstration in Berlin in 1914. Another thing that turned his mind to gases. And Haber increasingly gravitates to the investigation of gas as a weapon of war. In some sense, this is Haber's chance to show that he could be soldier, - from which he had been rejected - and also a good loyal German, using his talent and skills for Germany. So he organises the German research and development of poisoned gas, starting with chlorine. And he organises it right up, really, to the front line. This picture that summarises that. We see Haber, we see gas canisters in front of him, we see him wearing a uniform, we see him accompanied by the German high brass. In Ypres, April 1915, only one general agreed to have the gas, and even he thought it was unchivalrous. He said, "The higher civilisation rises, the viler man becomes." But its first use on April 22nd 1915, was with devastating effect. It was used against Algerian troops and blasted a hole in the lines, but it was not followed up. Very quickly the lesson was learnt. Countermeasures were used, like gas masks, both sides began developing gas. Lots of gas poisoning and the damage it did became the defining images of the First World War. This is 'Gassed' by John Singer Sargent, from 1919. So the allied response, and the German response was to develop more and more forms of gas: phosgene, mustard gas, and so on. There were, by one count, 650,000 casualties. 10% of all American chemists were being used to develop gas warfare by the end of the First World War. After the First World War... Sorry, Clara's response. Clara Immerwahr's response at that time was suicide. She shot herself with Haber's army pistol. Now you can't speculate, really, on the causes of suicide, but it was the timing of it and the manner of it that is significant. After the First World War, Haber continued to use his Chemistry for Germany. The Versailles Treaty had demanded reparations in gold and Haber came up with a scheme of extracting gold from seawater, using Chemistry for Germany. Also, after the First World War, Haber's life becomes more difficult as the Nazi's come to power. Or Nazi organisation is under way. Nazis, of course, defined Jewishness by ancestry. It doesn't matter if you're baptised. For them, Haber was Jewish and he became increasingly persecuted and left for Switzerland, where he died. But even at that time, his friendship with Einstein continued. Einstein writing to Haber in 1933, just before his death: "I am especially glad that your earlier love for the blond beast - Germany - "has cooled off a bit." They continued to have a very interesting relationship. So both sides mobilised the sciences, especially Chemistry, to horrific effect. And not just chemical warfare. We've got to remember that most people died from the effects of explosives and explosives are improved through Chemistry. And that raises the question to what extent science was blamed both for the form of the war, but even for the war itself. Here are some quotations that illustrate the range of arguments, after the first World War. So here's a quotation from an American from the Boston Sunday Herald: It's a particularly blunt one, I think. "For half a century we have literally endowed, supported and encouraged "the scientists. "Community funds paid for the institutions "in which they were educated "and underwrote their experiments. "And all the while, we believe that these endeavours "were promotions in the interest of civilisation. "Today we stand horror-stricken before the evidence of inhumanities "only made possible through scientific advancement. "Chemistry, you stand indicted and shamed before the Bar of History. "You have prostituted your genius to fell and ogrish devices. "You have turned killer and run with the wolf pack. "But we will reckon with you in the end." A particularly angry response. But here is another quotation, and it's from an unusual source. This is from John Fletcher Moulton, Lord Moulton. Moulton is a mathematician, he's a Fellow of the Royal Society, but in the First World War, he is Director General of the Explosives Department of the Ministry of Munitions. So he's precisely the kind of influential scientist that the science lobby was calling for. Precisely the kind of person who knew at first hand what it was like to mobilise science for warfare. And this is a quotation from his 1919 Rede lecture on science and war. And he says this: "If, with regard to such a war, "we ask ourselves, 'What does it owe to science?', "one is tempted to reply "that in the first place it owes its very possibility to it. "But for the stupendous advances that science has made, "no catastrophe at once so wide-spreading and so deep-reaching "could have happened. "In scale and in intensity alike, "this war represents the results of the totality of scientific progress. "It is the realisation of all that "which the accumulated powers with which science has endowed mankind "can effect when used for destruction." That's the head of Scientific Research and Munitions speaking in 1919. What he's getting at... There's a bit of conflation between science and technology. He's thinking about all the products of the modern world. The fast communications, the shipping, the radio telegraphy, all the new techniques of the modern world which together could make for a global conflict which could take the form that it did in the First World War. And, to be accurate, there were plenty of qualifications and rejections of this kind of association of science with either causing the war, or the form of the war. An author to the magazine 'Science' in 1916, during the war, said: "To blame Chemistry for the horrors of the war "was a little like blaming Astronomy for nocturnal crime." Now that's the other extreme. Science has got nothing really to do... And anyone who makes that... With war and the form of war... Anyone who makes that association is not understanding the science. Likewise, Moulton, while emphasising that science had produced poisoned gas and made explosives and more deadly, said that must be balanced against the bacteriological control of disease, or the improvements that will come to the aeroplane. And that would lead to international links growing. Or radio telegraphy. Radio communication. Eventually radio transmission and media. So science gives as it takes. But the reputation of science was in the balance. Perhaps even more worrying for working scientists, that pre-war internationalism, the free exchange of ideas, of an ideal of conduct, an ideal of living, was torn. As I said, French scientists refused to share conference space with German scientists. The hatred, the tensions, were extreme. So I'm going to end with my fifth and final figure, with the Project of Reconciliation. And the fifth and final figure is the astronomer and mathematician, Arthur Eddington. Before I get there though, there's a quotation from that Manifesto for Europeans. Remember, this is the manifesto that four people signed that called for tolerance, a united Europe, perhaps global government and science within all that. They said in that manifesto, and remember Einstein signed this, "The struggle raging today can scarcely yield a 'victor'." That was true. "All nations that participate in it "will, in all likelihood, pay an exceedingly high price." That's true. "Hence it appears not only wise but imperative "that men of education in all countries exert their influence "for the kind of peace treaty that will not carry the seeds of future wars, "whatever the outcome of the present conflict may be." One man of education who set out to exert influence was the English astronomer and pacifist, Arthur S. Eddington. In 1919, he saw an opportunity. There was a solar eclipse predicted that would be visible across Africa and into South America. This was an opportunity because he saw that there was room for an experiment, if he could get the instruments in the right place at the right time. And this experiment would be a test of Albert Einstein's Theory of General Relativity. Einstein's Theory predicts that space-time is curved. It means that light travelling between a star and us, passing the sun, might be bent very slightly by the gravitational well of the sun. That means as you're looking at it, the position of the stars might be seen to be moved slightly. And you can see that in a solar eclipse because the moon blocks out the sun. So you can see the starlight passing close to the sun. So Eddington says, "This is an opportunity", and organises an expedition to Brazil in 1919, to observe this light-bending effect on starlight. Rutherford, my second figure, later recalled in the following way about this experiment: "The war had just ended "and the complacency of the Victorian and Edwardian times had been shattered. "The people felt that all their values and all their ideals "had lost their bearings." Including scientists, all right? "Now suddenly that an astronomical prediction by a German scientist "had been confirmed by expeditions by British astronomers. "It struck a responsive chord." It was deliberately an exhibition of international science. And it only succeeded because of the driving belief of Eddington, who was a Quaker, hence pacifist, in the values that he saw in international science. Now it's actually only later, really, that it becomes widely recognised as a milestone of international scientific relations. Nevertheless, the symbolism was perfect. And the results further heightened Einstein's towering reputation. J. B. S. Haldane said, "A prophet who can give signs in the heavens "is always believed." And the solar eclipse is a 'sign in the heavens'. It also means I can end with this picture, which we've already seen, of the sun, perhaps rising, perhaps setting on a devastated landscape at the end of the First World War. Thank you very much. Jon, thank you very much indeed for a tremendous lecture. Illuminating, great anecdotes talking about human beings as well. Let's have some questions and answers. I should say, partly because, if I may quickly say, historians talk about counterfactual things all the time. Had it not been for the war, would they have pushed their experiments or concentrated on other projects? I suppose chemicals were being invented anyway then. Nitrates were both used for peace and production of food and so on as well as for explosives. I wondered if it was shifted or twisted in a way. Because of the war, the scientists concentrated on certain things which they otherwise would not have done. OK, that's a very good question. Counter fact is always slightly hard to test, because you just don't know But Moseley would have lived, just to take one example, and he was clearly an incredibly able experimentalist. What else would have been different? The Haber-Bosch Process certainly produced nitrates for fertilizers. It would still have produced the nitrates for explosives. The destructive power and the means of producing those explosives would have still been there. I think the one thing where the war did make a difference in the shape, style, direction of sciences in the world, and, in a way, this is even more true of the Second World War, is that it deepened a contact between scientists, the State, the military in particular, from which they got experience in the First World War and it's important for the Second World War for shaping all kinds of sciences. So, in the Second World War, we have various academic scientists and others working with industrial scientists, with the military, producing things like radar. Out of radar we have everything from electronic computers to radio astronomy, to a host of other kinds of sciences. And it's about... One effect is it producing a mission-orientated science as well. I think looking back at the whole of the 20th century, you only got that because of the circumstances of science and warfare. I think it's a very important influence, that, if you'd taken those conflicts out of the that history, the shape of that science, the shape of the world, would have been very different. That's my best counterfactual answer. Thank you very much. Let's have some questions. Who's going to be first? If you can wait for the mic that would be great. If you say that Chemistry really helped the First World War, can you also say it stopped in the Cold War because both sides were developing powerful nuclear weapons and they knew, if they used them, it would have bad effects, so they never wanted to use them. So can you say it kind of helped at the same time as caused problems? It's very difficult to simply put things into categories of good and bad, but what happens during the Cold War is both an increase in funding of all kinds of sciences, including basic science, because science is seen as a form of life that exemplifies the values of the non-communist West. And plus it produces very useful weapons for the Cold War. There are lots of reasons for funding the sciences and supporting them. But, of course, that comes with the secrecy and closure of the Cold War. So it's never a simple matter of simple positives or negatives, these things are shaped in quite complex ways. Thank you. Hi, is there any evidence from the First World War or perhaps more the Second, where scientists, having seen what had happened, withheld their help, or just held things back and said, "I'm not sharing this because I know what they'll do with it." Is there any evidence that happened? The most interesting and controversial case is Heisenberg, the German theoretical physicist, who may or may not... ..may or may not have... People argue that he contributed to the German atomic bomb project, some that he deliberately dragged his feet. Some say that he tried to communicate the facts of the German atomic bomb project to Niels Bohr, to let the allies know. And Michael Frayn's play, Copenhagen, explores all those different interpretations. We just don't know. But there is a case of possibly someone who perhaps deliberately held back what he knew. He was in a very senior position. He could influence things. Most scientists weren't in a position where they could have much influence because after all, much science is team work. You take someone out, you put someone else in. There was one person who walked out of the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb, which is Joseph Rotblat, who went on to found the Pugwash Movement for mobilising scientists for peaceful purposes. But, again, he only did so not at the beginning but half way through. The most common attitude was... The most common response to when the first atomic test took place, was that it worked. It's mostly a fairly instrumental view. They were there to do a job and they were pleased when it succeeded. And the Cold War... Well, after the Second World War individuals, a lot of them, went to America, didn't they? Cold War... I just reviewed a book about Klaus Fuchs actually, who was an East German communist, came to Britain's side and then went to America, Los Alamos, and stayed in America when the Americans were putting secrecy on all nuclear cooperation with other counties, including Britain, so his peer group in Britain, his British fellow scientists here, were saying, "He's such a good man, don't prosecute him." Because he was giving the British secrets which the Americans didn't want Britain officially to have as well as the Russians, and that's quite interesting. The importance of individual scientists. Could we have... There, just coming. You can say who you are, if you like. I'm Abigail Honeywell, and I guess one thing, just to follow on from the question about whether the scientists refused, there are probably a lot scientists who maybe wouldn't have minded refusing, but they had families, they needed jobs, they needed to stay where they were. Depending on the country in which they were, refusing to go along with requests might have had some adverse consequences. It's easy to say, "They shouldn't have done this or that", but if you've got to feed your family, or if you refuse, you'll be thrown into a concentration camp, potentially, the impetus to do the work becomes greater, even if you don't agree with the end result. And I'm Fritz Haber's great granddaughter by the way. Who's next? Here, and then... Yes. Hi, you talked about the British and German cases quite a lot. Could you give us an example of how the French felt regarding science, and what was their impression with the gas attacks afterwards? Did they feel the same way as the American case you've shown? I picked five individuals so I could personalise the story, but what that leaves out is a host of work, lots of work. So there's plenty of similar mobilisation of science going on in France and also in the US. Even before the US joins the conflict, work is under way. So there is plenty of very important, very interesting work going on in France. Some of the most important submarine countermeasure work is being done in France. There's work going on in finding ways of doing sound ranging, which is detecting where artillery is when it's out of sight, but you can, by picking up the direction... And the locating of howitzers and mortars and artillery is one of the biggest problems, because that's what's pounding the front line and they're out of sight. Where are they? It's very difficult to... There are some techniques, I think observation balloons but other techniques were trying to use acoustic science to detect it. That very important work is going on in France and it's work that's going on in collaboration. There's plenty of conversation and people go between Britain and France and, when the Americans come in, they're also working closely too, so the scale of the scientific enterprise in France was just as big as in Britain, and just as important. Thank you. Is there any point in thinking about the conflicts having inhibited scientific development as the emphasis moved more to technology than pure science? I know some of the scientists you've mentioned, Bragg, Thomson, in the First World War were diverted from the major topics to more technology projects and government-sponsored activities. Yes, again it's a difficult one to answer, because it's... Science doesn't move in a predetermined line. In the sense that, if you stop it, it will start again and move in the same direction. It's shaped by the forces around it, including, in this case, the context of warfare. But people like Rutherford had to turn over their Manchester lab to doing experiments and training the people doing the hydrophone work, for example. Bragg, again, left his job at UCL, to direct it in person. So, again, there are a few years... There are a few years of people at the peak of their powers, where that work was not being directed as they would have chosen. But balanced against that are the things that they learn. And I think that's most clear in the Second World War case where people pick up whole new techniques and ways of working, which develop in incredibly interesting ways that wouldn't have happened. So it's more that it changes because of the connection with warfare. Jon, I think our time is up. Thank you very much indeed. I think science as a force for evil and science as a force for good... I'm old enough to be educated in all Arts and no Science at all and whether there was a suspicion of science or not... Should there be some kind of outside scrutiny... My favourite people are the nuclear scientists... Ministers. The ordinary minister does not understand technology or science. Is that right as a generalisation? That's why it's all the more important for all of us to pay attention. I'm a firm believer that the more people are having a conversation about science and its values, directions and purposes, the better. Great. Thanks very much indeed, Jon.



Prince-elector Frederick III of Brandenburg, Germany founded the Academy under the name of Kurfürstlich Brandenburgische Societät der Wissenschaften ("Electoral Brandenburg Society of Sciences") upon the advice of Gottfried Leibniz, who was appointed president. Unlike other Academies, the Prussian Academy was not directly funded out of the state treasury. Frederick granted it the monopoly on producing and selling calendars in Brandenburg, a suggestion from Leibniz. As Frederick was crowned "King in Prussia" in 1701, creating the Kingdom of Prussia, the Academy was renamed Königlich Preußische Sozietät der Wissenschaften ("Royal Prussian Society of Sciences"). While other Academies focused on a few topics, the Prussian Academy was the first to teach both sciences and humanities. In 1710, the Academy statute was set, dividing the Academy into two sciences and two humanities classes. This was not changed until 1830, when the physics-mathematics and the philosophy-history classes replaced the four old classes.[1][2]

Frederick the Great

The reign of King Frederick II of Prussia ("Frederick the Great") saw major changes to the Academy. In 1744, the Nouvelle Société Littéraire and the Society of Sciences were merged into the Königliche Akademie der Wissenschaften ("Royal Academy of Sciences"). An obligation from the new statute were public calls for ideas on unsolved scientific questions with a monetary reward for solutions. The Academy acquired its own research facilities in the 18th century, including an observatory in 1709; an anatomical theater in 1717; a Collegium medico-chirurgicum in 1723; a botanical garden in 1718; and a laboratory in 1753. However, those were later taken over by the University of Berlin.

As a French-language institution its publications were in French such as the Histoire de l'Academie royale des sciences et belles lettres de Berlin which was published between 1745 and 1796.

A linguistics historian from Princeton University, Hans Aarsleff, notes that before Frederick ascended the throne in 1740, the academy was overshadowed by similar bodies in London and Paris. Frederick made French the official language and speculative philosophy the most important topic of study. The membership was strong in mathematics and philosophy, and included notable philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, Jean-Baptiste le Rond d'Alembert, Pierre-Louis de Maupertuis, and Etienne de Condillac. However, the academy was in a crisis for two decades at mid-century, due to scandals and internal rivalries such as the debates between Newtonianism and Leibnizian views, and the personality conflicts between the philosopher Voltaire and the mathematician Maupertuis. At a higher level, Maupertuis, the director from 1746 to 1759 and a monarchist, argued that the action of individuals was shaped by the character of the institution that contained them, and they worked for the glory of the state. By contrast, d'Alembert took a republican rather than monarchical approach and emphasized the international Republic of Letters as the vehicle for scientific advance.[4] By 1789, however, the academy had gained an international repute while making major contributions to German culture and thought. Frederick invited Joseph-Louis Lagrange to succeed Leonhard Euler as director; both were world-class mathematicians. Other intellectuals attracted to the philosopher's kingdom were Francesco Algarotti, Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, and Julien Offray de La Mettrie. Immanuel Kant published religious writings in Berlin which would have been censored elsewhere in Europe.[1][2][5]

19th century

Beginning in 1815, research businesses led by Academy committees (such as the Greek-Roman Archeology Committee or the Oriental Committee) were founded at the Academy. They employed mostly scientists to work alongside the corresponding committee's members. University departments emanated from some of these businesses after 1945.

20th century

On 25 November 1915 Albert Einstein presented his field equations of general relativity to the Academy.

Under the rule of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945, the Academy was subject to the Gleichschaltung, a "Nazification" process that was established to take totalitarian control over various aspects of society. However, compared with other institutions, such as the universities where Jewish employees and members were expelled starting in 1933, Jewish Academy members were not expelled until 1938, following a direct request by the Ministry of Education.[6] The new Academy statute went in effect on 8 June 1939, reorganizing the Academy according to the Nazi leadership principle known as Führerprinzip.

Following World War II, the Soviet Military Administration in Germany, or SMAD, reorganized the Academy under the name of Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin (English: German Academy of Sciences at Berlin) on 1 July 1946. In 1972, it was renamed Akademie der Wissenschaften der DDR or AdW (English: Academy of Sciences of the GDR). At its height, the AdW had 400 researchers and 24,000 employees in locations across East Germany. Following German Reunification, the Academy was disbanded and the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften ("Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities") was founded in its place, in compliance with a 1992 treaty between the State Parliaments of Berlin and Brandenburg. 60 of the AdW members broke off and created the private Leibniz Society in 1993.[7]

Notable members


  1. ^ a b c "The Berlin Academy of Science". MacTutor History of Mathematics archive. August 2004. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  2. ^ a b c "Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities". Archived from the original on 27 June 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  3. ^ "History of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities". Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  4. ^ Mary Terrall, "The Culture of Science in Frederick the Great's Berlin," History of Science, Dec 1990, Vol. 28 Issue 4, pp 333-364
  5. ^ Hans Aarsleff, "The Berlin Academy under Frederick the Great," History of the Human Sciences, May 1989, Vol. 2 Issue 2, pp 193-206
  6. ^ President of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (Pub.) A History of more than 300 Years. Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Formerly the Prussian Academy of Sciences. BBAW, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-939818-14-4 (English and German), p. 59-69.
  7. ^ Notzoldt, Peter; Walther, Peter Th. (2004). "The Prussian Academy of Sciences during the Third Reich". Minerva: A Review of Science, Learning and Policy. 42 (4): 421–444. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  8. ^ 30. November 1753 Ehrenmitglied der Königlich-Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften. See Werner Hartkopf: Die Berliner Akademie der Wissenschaften: ihre Mitglieder und Preisträger. Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1992, ISBN 3-05-002153-5, S. 45

Further reading

External links

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