Affiliated project – Case study 5: The Pugwash Conferences: History, Myth, Ideology
Scientific conferences are about much more than scientific intercourse. Some conferences become particularly well known beyond their narrow scientific confounds, entering the public consciousness or gaining media coverage. Some are remembered many years after they took place, taking on an almost mythic status. How and why do these myths arise, and what function to they serve in relation to their science and scientific conferences? This project looks to answer these questions through a study of the early years of the scientists’ conference Pugwash. The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs held its first meeting at the Nova Scotia town of Pugwash in July 1957. There were follow-up scientists’ conferences in March and September 1958, then once or twice a year in subsequent years. The conferences were designed to bring together scientists (and later, other academics) from across political divides, particularly between the Western and Eastern blocs. The Conferences continued to grow in prominence in the sixties, and scholars have accorded them a not insignificant role in contributing to nuclear arms control. The conferences are generally seen as a manifestation of scientists’ internationalism and have come to occupy a central position in our histories of postwar scientific internationalism, connecting as they do the anti-bomb movements of 1945-46 to the nuclear arms control treaties of the 60s and 70s (particularly the NPT). The project explores less well-known forces that shaped the early years of the conferences, in particular the work of Cyrus Eaton who was central to the early formation of the conferences. My project explores how these forces have been depicted in official and non-official histories and narratives of Pugwash, and the role these narratives played in the subsequent growth of the organization.
Student interns: Aline Bieth (EHESS) and Joséphine Colic (University of Strasbourg)
Diane Courtin (MNHN)