Past Event

Audra Wolfe - The Fight for Science and Freedom: Recovering the Role of Science in Cold War-Era Cultural Diplomacy

October 26, 2016
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
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Fayerweather Hall (Room 513), Columbia University, 1180 Amsterdam Avenue, New York

Speaker: Audra Wolfe, Independent Scholar; Freelance Writer

The Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) is probably the best known of the CIA’s attempts at covert cultural diplomacy, but its scientific programming has been mostly forgotten. From its first appearance at the organization’s opening meeting in Berlin in 1950, the strand of the CCF’s agenda continued throughout the 1950s, with a major conference on Science and Freedom chaired by Michael Polanyi in Hamburg in 1953 and three smaller meetings in Paris, Milan, and Tunis. From 1954 to 1961, the CCF’s Committee on Science and Freedom published a bulletin called Science and Freedom. But despite pushes from the CCF’s Paris office, Science and Freedom never lived up to the CIA’s expectations, and the Agency finally cut off funding in 1961 in favor of a more mainstream journal, Minerva.

Science never took on the central role in the CCF’s operations that Michael Polanyi originally envisioned for it, but it did play a role, and there is evidence to suggest that U.S. policymakers wanted it to play a larger one. This talk uses the story of the CCF’s failed science programming to explore broader U.S. visions of science as a tool for cultural diplomacy—covert, overt, or something in between.

This event is free and open to the public.

This event is part of the New York History of Science Lecture Series.

Sponsoring Organizations:
New York University, Gallatin School of Individualized Study
Columbia University in the City of New York, The Center for Science and Society
Columbia University in the City of New York, University Seminar in History and Philosophy of Science
The Graduate Center at the City University of New York
The New York Academy of Sciences
The New York Academy of Medicine