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Event Series: Berlin-Brandenburger Colloquium für Umweltgeschichte

Popularization of Science & the Anti-Nuclear Power Movement in West/East Germany

The evolution of popular opinion regarding nuclear power in Germany


Thu., June 22, 2017
6:00pm - 8:00pm


Institut für Geschichtswissenschaften



The talk draws on Prof Augustine's book project, which attempts to understand the evolution of popular opinion regarding nuclear power in Germany. This is a difficult moment to talk about the popularization of science, given that popularization and science seem to be moving in different directions (climate change denial, vaccine skepticism). Science and democracy have, however, at times interacted constructively. In West Germany, the anti-nuclear power movement was advanced by two converging forces: the anti-nuclear power movement and the slow emergence of a pragmatic environmentalism.

While highly critical of science in its institutional and professional manifestations, anti-nuclear power activists embraced science as a cognitive system. The talk traces the spread of key scientific arguments regarding low-dose radiation and nuclear reactor safety from the United States to counter-experts in West Germany and the popularizers who spread these views to a broader activist scene. Science popularization was also key to the emergence of a sustained critique of nuclear power in the GDR in the 1980s.

Short bio:

Augustine has published widely on German social, economic and environmental history and the history of technology in the 19th and 20th centuries, including: Red Prometheus: Engineering and Dictatorship in East Germany, 1945-1990 (M.I.T. Press, 2007), Patricians and Parvenus: Wealth and High Society in Wilhelmine Germany (Berg Publishers, 1994); “Innovation and Ideology: Werner Hartmann and the Failure of the East German Electronics Industry,” The East German Economy, 1945-2010: Falling Behind or Catching Up? (Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 95-110; “Chapter 4: Learning from War: Media Coverage of the Nuclear Age in the Two Germanies,” in The Nuclear Age in Popular Media: A Transnational History, 1945-1965, ed. Dick van Lente (Palgrave, 2012), pp. 79- 116.

Further information

Organizer: HU-Berlin
Speakers: Prof. Dolores Augustine; NY, USA
Moderation: Astrid Kirchhof/Jan-Henrik Meyer


Astrid Kirchhof
Phone: 030 2093-70525


Friedrichstraße 191-193
Room: 4026