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Lecture captures historical politics of science

Lecture captures historical politics of science
Online Exclusive
February 04, 2005

It is dangerous to separate science from ethics, according to a German history expert who spoke at a program Thursday night to complement the World War II-themed play “Copenhagen.”

Alan Beyerchen, professor of history at Ohio State University, described the dilemmas of German physicists under Nazism, a guiding theme of the play, and answered questions from an audience of about 40 people.

This year’s Hillard Gold ’39 lecturer, Beyerchen addressed “Copenhagen”’s historical and ethical themes in his lecture, “Heisenberg and the German Physics Community Under the Third Reich” at Graham Memorial.

In the 1930s, Nazis demanded the removal of non-Aryan civil servants, including several Nobel Prize-winning physics professors.

Beyerchen said scientists traditionally have drawn a line between the knowledge they discover and its application in the world.

“They thought science was purer than such worldly pursuits,” he said.

This avoidance of politics was a common attitude among physicists during World War II.

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