12:00 Monday, February 16 GAR 4.100
“The Bottom Line: Cables, Commerce, and Electrical Physics in the Victorian British Empire”
This talk is part of the Institute for Historical Research’s series of workshops, so please RSVP Courtney to receive the pre-circulated paper.
The networks of telegraph lines that began to spread across Britain, the United States, and Continental Europe in the 1840s and early 1850s had far-reaching effects on the dissemination of news and the operation of markets. They also had deep effects on electrical science. In this paper, I will argue that what might at first appear to be a prime example of pure science—the development of electromagnetic field theory in Britain in the middle decades of the 19th century—was in fact driven in important ways by developments in the telegraph industry, particularly British scientists’ and engineers’ encounters with puzzling new phenomena that turned up on underground wires and undersea cables in the early 1850s.
Bruce J. Hunt completed his Ph.D. in the history of science at Johns Hopkins University in 1984 and has taught at The University of Texas since 1985. He is the author of The Maxwellians (1991) and Pursuing Power and Light: Technology and Physics from James Watt to Albert Einstein (2010) and numerous articles on the history of electrical science and technology. His current work focuses on the growth of the global telegraph network in the nineteenth century, and how work in that industry shaped the development of electrical physics, particularly in Britain.
12:00 Friday, February 6 WAG 316
“Atomic Junction: Bringing a Nuclear Reactor to an African Suburb”
Atomic Junction is a nexus of roadways leading to the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission at Kwabenya, site of a 30kw research reactor. This talk considers the specter of the reactor in the collective memory of those living and working at Kwabenya. It examines Ghana’s first President Kwame Nkrumah’s project to secure Soviet support for a reactor in the early 1960s. It then considers how Ghanaian scientists nurtured the dream for a reactor during the 1970s and 1980s, despite tremendous international pressure to abandon nuclear activities. The story continues up to the advent of Chinese support for the reactor in the last moments of the Cold War. Alongside the history of Ghana’s efforts to secure a reactor, the talk considers shifting alliances between Ghana and China, the Soviet Union/Russia, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
Abena Dove Osseo-Asare is Assistant Professor of History at UT Austin. She received her PhD in the History of Science from Harvard University. She is the author of Bitter Roots: The Search for Healing Plants in Africa (Chicago, 2014).