NBA History of Science Seminar

Paul Josephson, "The Peaceful Atom in Eastern Europe".

In the 1950s and 1960s, the nations of East Central Europe embarked on a series of programs to harness the atom to the engine of socialist progress. For party leaders and engineers, applications in industry, agriculture, medicine and especially nuclear power promised economic growth, improvements in public health and national security, and generation of copious quantities of electrical energy.

Paul Josephson, Colby College, Waterville, Maine, USA

All of these would demonstrate that the nations had rapidly been transformed from agriculturally-based peasant societies into modern industrial powers. The peaceful atom was a symbol of modernity. The peaceful atom was also a major symbol of the cold war rivalries between East and West, the USSR and the United States, the Warsaw Pact and NATO nations.

For this reason, Soviet officials and scientists took special interest in seeing those programs develop in Eastern Europe, while controlling military applications. Not surprisingly, Soviet technological approaches and styles predominated in the design and diffusion of nuclear programs in Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Lithuania. The talk will discuss these peaceful programs with a focus on the crucial Soviet technological influences.