The Means of Destruction

Week 11

Means of Destruction and technology in the 20th Century

Technologies appear to have many faces. One is productive and socially useful while another is war, mass killing and destruction. How has war shaped technology and how has technology influenced warfare? What has been the impact of the industrial and computer age? The most dramatic development in the age of 'total war' was the creation of the atomic bomb. This technological development altered public perceptions of the value of technology. Solid-state electronics and digital computing played as important roles as did the radioactive materials in this development.

The technological developments connected to warfare and power struggles has attracted great ressources from the powers that be and seem to have changed technological trajectories. With the close connection between government, universities and private industries in the 20th Century, do we have a profound technopolitical problem?     


9.00-12.00: Lecture and seminar


Core readings:


Misa ch. 7

Discussion 1:

Dwight D. Eisenhower, 'Farewell Address', Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library.

Discussion 2:

Jonathan Aylen: "Bloodhound on my Trail: Building the Ferranti Argus Process Control Computer".
International Journal for the History of Engineering and Technology.
Vol. 82 No. 1, January´, 2012, p 1-36. 

Discussion 3:

Søren Hein Rasmussen: "Den kolde krigs billeder" chapter 5+6, Gyldendal 2009 - This text is in Danish and can only be presented by students, who can read Danish. If you cannot read Danish, do look at the pictures - they are very telling...

Discussion 4:

Susan Aldridge, John Parascandola, Jeffrey Sturchio, "Discovery and Development of Penicillin", 1999


Supplementary Readings:

Soedel, Werner and Vernard Foley


“Ancient Catapults”


Scientific American, Offprints Volume 240, Number 3, March 1979, pp. 150-160

William J. Perry,


'Military technology: an historical perspective',


Technology in Society, 26 (2004), 235-243.


Robert Jungk,

Brighter than a Thousand Suns,

Victor Gollancz, 1958.

Richard Rhodes,

The Making of the Atomic Bomb,

Penguin, 1988.

Susan Northcutt,

'Women and the Bomb: domestication of the atomic bomb in the United States',

International Social Sciences Review 74 (1999), pp.129-141.

Ichiro Sekine,

'The researches at Nagasaki University on atomic bomb survivors',

International Congress Series, 1258 (2003), 39-49.

Martin J. Sherwin,

'Hiroshima as Politics and History',

Journal of American History 82 (1995), pp. 1085-1093.