Artificial Cold and International Cooperation in Science

4 - 8 August 2008

Venue: Lorentz Center@Oort

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On the 10th of July, 1908, Heike Kamerlingh Onnes wrote history when his Leiden Physics Laboratory became the first place in the world where Helium was liquefied. A few months later some 5,000 specialists in the field of artificial cold gathered in Paris to attend the First International Congress of Refrigeration.

A century later, the Lorentz Center workshop ‘Artificial Cold and International Cooperation in Science’ aims to bring together international scholars working on the history of cryogenics, experts on the history of scientific collaborations and international congresses, historians who focus on the relationships between science and industry as well as active scientists to reflect on the various historical dimensions of these events. Purpose of this week-long workshop is to use the case of cryogenics as a probe to unravel the complex processes through which pure research on a local scale is transformed into an international endeavour with technological and industrial ramifications.

Typical questions that the conference will address are:

How did academic research on low temperature science relate to the needs of the refrigeration industry? How and where did collaboration emerge, what form did it take, and how were public and private interests balanced? In these regards one may think of patents, academic consultants, industrial laboratories, academic entrepreneurs, the status of  industrial jobs among academics, etc. How does the situation in low temperature science compare to other fields with a strong industrial context, e.g. electrodynamics of organic chemistry? What was the role of international conferences in the development of the relationship between cryogenic science and industry? How international was science around 1900 with regard to education and careers, societies, conferences, private contacts, journals, travels, etc. How did political and ideological factors express themselves in such contacts.  To what extent and in what ways did the industrial and international context determine the nature and scope of low temperature research? How does the current relationship between science and industry compare to that around 1900? How did new communication technologies affect the internationalization of science in both 1900 and more recent times? By contrasting both periods we hope to increase the awareness of scientist of the historical nature of many seemingly self-evident practices and that of historians of some subtle changes around the turn of the nineteenth century, which were to have far reaching consequences.

Another important aim of the workshop ‘Artificial Cold and International Cooperation in Science’ is to discuss a research agenda for the near future at the cross roads of the history of low temperature science, international cooperation of science and the connections between science and industry.


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