Dolores Augustine (New York): Popularization of Science and the Anti-Nuclear Power Movement in West and East Germany

Datum: 22.06.2017
Ort: Berlin

Zeit: 18.00 (c.t.) - 20.00 Uhr

My talk draws on my book project, which attempts to understand the evolution of popular opinion regarding nuclear power in Germany.  This is a difficult moment to talk about the popularization of science, given that popularization and science seem to be moving in different directions (climate change denial, vaccine skepticism).   Science and democracy have, however, at times interacted constructively. In West Germany, the anti-nuclear power movement was advanced by two converging forces:  the anti-nuclear power movement and the slow emergence of a pragmatic environmentalism.  While highly critical of science in its institutional and professional manifestations, anti-nuclear power activists embraced science as a cognitive system.  My talk traces the spread of key scientific arguments regarding low-dose radiation and nuclear reactor safety from the United States to counter-experts in West Germany and the popularizers who spread these views to a broader activist scene.  Science popularization was also key to the emergence of a sustained critique of nuclear power in the GDR in the 1980s.

Dolores Augustine is a professor of history at St. John’s University, Jamaica, NY. She is a graduate of Georgetown and FU Berlin, where she obtained her PhD, supervised by Hartmut Kaelble. She is a member of the Advisory Board of the Center for Contemporary Historical Research (ZZF), Potsdam and has been on the organizing committee for of the German Studies Association’s annual conference in 2012 and 2013. Her current research project, on which this talk is drawing, is on “Atomic Power? Nein, Danke!  Protest, Science, and Nuclear Energy in Germany, 1945 to the Present”.

She has published widely on German social, economic and environmental history and the history of technology in the 19th and 20th centuries, including: Red Prometheus:  Engineering and Dictatorship in East Germany, 1945-1990 (M.I.T. Press, 2007), Patricians and Parvenus:  Wealth and High Society in Wilhelmine Germany (Berg Publishers, 1994); “Innovation and Ideology: Werner Hartmann and the Failure of the East German Electronics Industry,” The East German Economy, 1945-2010: Falling Behind or Catching Up?  (Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 95-110; “Chapter 4:  Learning from War:  Media Coverage of the Nuclear Age in the Two Germanies,” in The Nuclear Age in Popular Media:  A Transnational History, 1945-1965, ed. Dick van Lente (Palgrave, 2012), pp. 79-116.

Ein Vortrag im Berlin-Brandenburger Colloquium für Umweltgeschichte Sommersemster 2017 der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin in Kooperation mit dem Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam (ZZF).


Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
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Kontakt und Anmeldung

Konzeption und Organisation des Berlin-Brandenburger Colloquiums für Umweltgeschichte (Sommersemester 2017):
Dr. Jan-Henrik Meyer (University of Kopenhagen/ZZF Potsdam)
Dr. Astrid M. Kirchhof (HU Berlin)

Eintritt frei| keine Anmeldung erforderlich

Dr. Jan-Henrik Meyer
derzeit Visiting Fellow am Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam
Am Neuen Markt 1
14467 Potsdam
Email: j.h.meyer [at]

Dr. Astrid M. Kirchhof
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Email: astrid.m.kirchhof [at]