27 Oct 2015 5:30pm - 7:30pm SG1, Alison Richard Building (Sidgwick Site), Cambridge


Imitation Games: Conspiratorial Sciences and Intelligent Machines

A public lecture by Professor Simon Schaffer (University of Cambridge)

Please note the later start time of 5.30pm for this lecture.


Influential public declarations about the normative system of the sciences produced in the mid-twentieth century by authorities such as J D Bernal ('The social function of science', 1939) and R K Merton ('Science and technology in a democratic order', 1942) urged the fundamental contrast between science and secrecy: what Merton significantly labeled 'communism' meant that scientists must and did publicise and share their work as widely as possible. A decade later, at a key conjuncture of the Cold War, inquiries in fields such as computation (Alan Turing 'Computing machinery and intelligence', 1950) and psychological politics (Edward Hunter, 'Brainwashing', 1950) described the opposite phenomenon: the importance of sequestered and secretive knowledge in scientific understanding and management of human intelligence. The relations between these normative systems and their role in public culture were important themes in the emergence of the imageries of science and secrecy in the mid-twentieth century.

Professor Simon Schaffer is Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge, and has been a Fellow of Darwin College since 1985. Until recently he was editor of The British Journal for the History of Science. His research interests include the history of physical science and the social history of science. In July 2012 he was elected as a Fellow of the British Academy.

Professor Schaffer was jointly awarded the Erasmus Prize in 2005 for the book Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle and the Experimental Life, which he co-authored with Steven Shapin. In 2004, he presented a series of documentaries for the BBC about light and the history of its study and knowledge.


Open to all. No registration required.

This event will be followed by a wine reception. 

This is part of a series of public talks from the Leverhulme-funded project Conspiracy and Democracy. More information at http://www.conspiracyanddemocracy.org

Administrative assistance: skg41@cam.ac.uk

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