Houston professor guest lectures on scientific impact of atomic bomb
It was in the international turmoil of the 1930s that the nature of the scientific community was changed forever, explained Martin Melosi, University of Houston history professor.
Melosi is the first guest lecturer for Honors College's Dream Course “The Atomic History” and spoke to a crowd of more than 80 people at the Fred Jones Jr. Art Museum Tuesday night.
“The whole idea of a democracy of science, the free exchange of ideas, has now been reparably changed. And this is an event that seems to pale in comparison with the scientific achievements that led to the bomb. It is one of the casualties of the war. It is one of the things that institutionally changed the relationship of science within our society,” Melosi said.
The lecture, entitled “The End of the Democracy of Science,” addressed the abrupt shift that occurred in the world of science as the governments began to take interest in practical applications of atomic theory, i.e. the bomb.
“Science became subservient to national objectives. Scientists became hugely limited in who they could talk to and collaborate with,” Melosi said.
The program is in conjunction with an Honors College “Perspectives” course and is sponsored by The Presidential Dream Course Program with a grant from OU Provost Nancy Mergler and OU President David Boren.
“I’m in the perspectives course ‘The Atom in American Experience,’ by Dr. Hamerla and Dr. Lifset, and it’s Dr. Melosi’s work that we’ve focused on mainly so far,” microbiology sophomore Chris Ray said. “We had a chance to listen to him in class and ask him questions in addition to the lecture.”
Because of his work, the course’s instructors, Honors College Associate Dean Richard Hamerla and Honors College assistant professor Robert Lifset, asked Melosi to speak to the class.
“In the talk tonight, Melosi did a good job of excavating the contemporary relevance of the issue,” Lifset said. “This is a historically important technology that reshaped American history in the 20th century, specifically the history of science.”
The event was open to the general public. After a round of applause, the floor was opened up for a question and answer session.
“It was a very provocative lecture; my friend and I are still talking it over. I really appreciated the opportunity to hear it, “ said Doug Miller, history graduate student.
>> “Twilight of the Bombs” 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 30 in the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History
>> “What Happened to the Promise of Nuclear Power” 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 21 in the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art
>> “Truman’s Decision to use the Bomb After 65 Years” 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4 in the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art