History and ethics of scientific warfare in our time

History and ethics of scientific warfare in our time

Professor Andrew Nelson from the University of Leeds will give us a fascinating insight into the history and morality of scientific warfare, focusing on chemical warfare in WWI.

Here is his description of the talk:

One hundred years ago the UK and its allies embarked on one of the most disastrous wars of the century, the so-called Great War. One of the most terrible aspects of this conflict, apart from the ten million estimated military casualties, was that chemical weapons were used extensively for the first time. Because of this it is often named “The Chemical War”. It is therefore appropriate now to review the history and ethics of scientists who engage on military work.
This talk will initially highlight several aspects of chemical warfare and ask why the whole world feels such a revulsion against them but less so when other equally destructive weapons are used routinely (cluster bombs, landmines, etc). In fact, chemical weapons frightened Adolf Hitler so much that he never deployed them militarily against the allies although he used them to kill civilians in the death camps. Another paradox is that the
pioneer of chemical warfare was the brilliant intellectual enigmatic scientist Fritz Haber.
The talk will therefore focus on Fritz Haber and ask why such a gifted innovative chemist devoted some of his years to developing the most efficient ways of gassing his fellow humans. The talk will then continue this theme with the case histories of scientists who worked before and during WWII. These people were some of the most brilliant physicists
of the 20th century of whom some became pacifists, others worked on the atomic bomb project and a few allied themselves with the Nazis. The motives which drove these scientists to act in the way they did will be discussed.


Thursday, 13 November 2014 19:00


Victoria Hotel