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Luca Forgiarini MSc

PhD candidate


Area(s) of interest: European History, History & Philosophy of Science and Technology, War & Conflict

Cohort/Start PhD: 2021-2022

The Promise of Science: Building international scientific cooperation in post-WWII Europe, 1945 – 1975

Utrecht University, Faculty of Science, Freudenthal Institute
Promotor(es): Guido Bacciagaluppi (promotor), David Baneke (daily supervisor)
Start project: September 2021

After World War II, the rebuilding of European scientific infrastructure was seen as a crucial step in the reconstruction of war-torn Western Europe. As part of this reconstruction effort, European countries decided to collaborate on some of the first large-scale international scientific research projects, such as the Centre Européen de Recherche Nucléaire (CERN) and the European Space Agency (ESA). Not only was this a way to stimulate scientific recovery on a national level through regional cooperation, it was also a show of political unity that starkly contrasted the spectre of authoritarianism that had precipitated the war. Thus, in parallel to the emergence of post-war economic and political alliances, European integration also proceeded through scientific cooperation. This project will investigate the history of this cooperation through the lens of the expectations, and ideals, of the scientists and science administrators instrumental in shaping it. The project posits that post-WWII international scientific cooperation in Europe was driven by expectations of the role of science in modern society that tapped into larger cultural narratives of the utopian character of science, so-called ‘scientific utopian narratives’. These narratives painted a picture of science as the main driver of progress – materially, politically, and morally.

Drawing on scholarship from Science and Technology Studies, the project uses the notion of ‘sociotechnical imaginary’ to conceptualise European scientific cooperation as the institutionalised embodiment of specific ideals of science. Focusing on a core group of six actors instrumental in building European Science – Edoardo Amaldi, Pierre Auger, Henk Bannier, François de Rose, Gösta Funke and Jean Willems – this research aims to show how utopian scientific narratives have become enshrined in European scientific cooperation, and how science, in the process, became a symbol of European integration.

Supported by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) (15688607)