Routes of Science: The impact of UNESCO’s atoms for peace initiative

Routes of Science: The impact of UNESCO’s atoms for peace initiative

Ivan Lind Christensen

UNESCO's role in the development of national and international science can hardly be overestimated. Looking at the history of various UNESCO initiatives, it also seems evident that the organization was instrumental in its efforts to influence the global development of both the social, humanistic and natural sciences.

The efforts were threefold: 1. They were of an infrastructural character – facilitating the establishment of international scientific organizations and reference works in order to internationalize the sciences. 2. They were of a normative character, since UNESCO called for stronger ethical considerations especially in the natural sciences, which should no longer "search for truth", regardless of the possible ethical implications of their scientific discoveries, but should be in the "service of man". 3. They were also of a practical character, as UNESCO sent experts, advisors and consultants to various member states to offer technical assistance.

The aim of this sub-project is to investigate the impact in the selected nine member states of UNESCO's efforts to implement a particular form of ethical thinking in the development of the post-war natural sciences – by focusing on the impact of UNESCO’s initiative on "the peaceful use of atomic energy" in the wake of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki incidents. This was not an enterprise without obstacles. The organization was constantly under suspicion from the US of being a cover for espionage, and some of the employees were seen as possible conveyers of secret information to the USSR.

Nevertheless, UNESCO hosted the conferences of 1951 and 1952 to establish the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and was behind several traveling exhibitions and the production of teaching and information material on the peaceful use of atomic energy to be distributed within the member states.

A look into the archives of the various national commissions could provide an insight into the exact reception of this "public knowledge" being transferred from Paris and the way in which the ethical aspects of it might have influenced the common perception of atomic energy.

Contact

Contact

Research Coordinator Poul Duedahl

Kroghstraede 1, 9220 Aalborg O, Denmark

Phone: +45 9940 9141
Email: duedahl@cgs.aau.dk