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Bathyscaphes and Big Science: Oceanography and Exploration 1945-1960
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology, History of Science and Technology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0019-8251
2012 (English)Conference paper, Presentation (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

When the Danish marine biologist Anton Bruun (1900-1961) returned home in 1952 after the highly successful Galathea expedition, the tradition of exploration that his venture embodied was already passing into history. During the decade that followed oceanographic exploration became associated more with international cooperation -- for logistical as much as political reasons -- while the leadership of the Nordic countries faded as the Cold War became entrenched. This paper pays close attention to the political as well as the scientific and technical reasons for these shifts. I argue that the shifting geopolitical landscape of the 1950s shaped the landscape for oceanography in diverse ways, from framing the possibilities for international cooperation (and competition) to opening new funding avenues. This went far beyond the sphere of narrowly military activities. Although the imperative to survey and control the oceans led to increased funding for physical oceanography, issues such as radioactive waste dumping, food security, and even the basic natural historical interest in locating new species opened space for marine biologists to benefit. Nor did the Cold War’s geopolitical impact end with the superpowers: decolonization changed the dynamics of international cooperation, as did the emergence of new international bodies such as UNESCO. As the 1950s ended and bathyscaphes even replaced ships as the most 'sexy' vehicles for oceanographic exploration, the change since 1945 was clear – even though oceanography remained both practically and rhetorically linked to exploration.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
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History of Technology
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-105871OAI: diva2:572662
European Society for the History of Science annual meeting, Athens, 1-3 November 2012

QC 20130115

Available from: 2012-11-28 Created: 2012-11-28 Last updated: 2013-01-15Bibliographically approved

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