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フランケンシュタインからDr. Strangeloveへ


雑誌NatureはPhysicists’ warという言葉から戦中から戦後の科学界のあり方について興味深い記事をあげていました。音声の方は、科学者と社会とのあり方の変遷について語っていてこちらはこちらで面白いです。19世紀までの科学者はフランケンシュタインやジキル博士のように一匹狼的な科学者像だったけど、20世紀は大きな組織に属する科学者像が一般的になっているのは確かですね。

英語学習は個人の目的や趣味の領域に還元されて語られやすいですが、今の日本では英語は社会的要請という部分が無視できないんですよね。もちろん、その社会的要請に応えるかどうかはその個人に委ねることになりますが。。。Natureの記事は英語ではなく物理が戦中・戦後に社会的要請として教育されるべきものとしてあったというものです。Physicists’ warという意味には二つあり、まず第一次世界大戦のように化学兵器ではなく第二次大戦では原子爆弾やレーダーのように物理学者が開発した兵器が重要になったという意味があるようです。

History: From blackboards to bombs
David Kaiser
28 July 2015
Seventy years after the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by nuclear weapons, David Kaiser investigates the legacy of 'the physicists' war'.

Catchy phrase
In late November 1941, just weeks before the United States entered the global conflict, James Conant explained in a newsletter of the American Chemical Society that “this is a physicist's war rather than a chemist's”1. Conant was well-placed to know: he was president of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, chair of the US National Defense Research Committee (NDRC), and a veteran of earlier chemical-weapons projects.

The phrase had instant appeal; others quickly began to quote it. In 1949, for example, Life magazine profiled2 physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who had served as scientific director of the wartime Los Alamos laboratory in New Mexico, a central node of the Manhattan Project. Referring to massive military projects such as the bomb and radar, the reporter invoked “the popular notion” that the Second World War had been “a physicists' war”.

By that time, the meaning of Conant's formulation seemed self-evident. The First World War, with its notorious battlefield uses of poison gases such as phosgene and chlorine, had been dubbed the chemists' war. The bomb and radar presented a logical counterpoint.

そしてもう一つの意味として、そのような兵器を操作できるように物理教育を施さないといけないという意味がphysicists' warにあったようです。

Classroom mobilization
To most scientists and policy-makers in the early 1940s, the physicists' war referred to a massive educational mission.

In January 1942, the director of the American Institute of Physics (AIP), Henry Barton, citing Conant, began issuing bulletins entitled 'A Physicist's War'. Barton reasoned that “the conditions under which physicists can render services to their country are changing so rapidly” that department chairs and heads of laboratories needed some means of keeping abreast of evolving policies and priorities. The monthly bulletins focused on two main topics: how to secure draft deferments for physics students and personnel, and how academic departments could meet the sudden demand for more physics instruction.

Modern warfare, it seemed, required rudimentary knowledge of optics and acoustics, radio and circuits. Before the war, the US Army and Navy had trained technical specialists from within their own ranks, at their own facilities. The sudden entry of the United States into the war required new tactics. University physicists, consulting with army and navy officials, reported early in the conflict that enrolments in high-school physics classes would need to jump by 250%. Their goal: half of all high-school boys in the country should spend at least one class per day focusing on electricity, circuits and radio4.


Meanwhile, the two meanings of the physicists' war blurred together as the cold war intensified. More and more universities became contracting sites for military and defence agencies, continuing the model that Conant and others had forged during the war. Physicists' research budgets ballooned, and enrolments grew faster than in any other field, doubling every few years.

More physicists were trained in the United States, United Kingdom and Soviet Union in the quarter-century after the war than had been trained throughout all of previous history. Yet the aims of the training shifted in the 1950s and 1960s. Rather than teaching soldiers some elementary physics to prepare them for the battlefield, US officials spoke of creating a 'standing army' of physicists, who could work on nuclear-weapons projects without delay should the cold war ever turn hot.

Three decades after 1945, years into the slog of the Vietnam War, many critics grew uneasy with the close association between physics and war. Campus protesters demanded that the defence department get out of the higher-education business. At universities across the United States, physicists' laboratories became frequent targets for sit-ins and even Molotov cocktails.