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    Citizenship is the theme of a multi-year series at OSU commemorating World War I with the goal of thinking through the lessons of the period as well as the horror of the trenches. On Wednesday, November 4, a panel of four OSU scholars—three historians and a philosopher—shared their reflections on different aspects of the Great War. What did WWI mean for the concept of citizenship and for citizens as they experienced and later commemorated the sacrifices made?

     

    Professor Christopher Nichols opened with the image of the ubiquitous red poppy that is worn in honor of WWI veterans and victims particularly in Canada and the UK. This was a tradition started in the United States but is no longer observed here as much as it is in other places in the world. The poppy reminds one of poetic lines such as “Age shall not weary them” from the ode to WWI fallen soldiers by Robert Lawrence Binyon (1869-1943) or images of “poppies …between the crosses, row on row” as described in John McCrae’s, “In Flanders Fields”. However, Professor Nichols also pointed to the way the decorative red lapel flower was used to lobby for veteran benefits such as claims for higher pensions. Such “poppy appeals,” as they were called, kept the war cause visible. Nichols asked, “Does this reify war-making? or does it commemorate a collective sacrifice?” He urged the audience to remember the global nature of WWI. The war did not take place just in Europe. Hollywood films such as On the Western Front seem to ignore the fighting that happened in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. Ten percent of the population of the world died, and many millions who came home did so with injuries that could never heal. Many did not have homes to return to. The cost of “total war” for human life, as well as other impacts of “maximizing death”,  was unprecedented for both soldiers and civilians. Nichols pointed out that while it was in many ways a war fought with traditional weapons, there were many innovations—bombing with tear gas first so that soldiers would remove their gas masks, then applying chlorine gas which could then penetrate the lungs of the unmasked soldiers—was just one of the more nefarious new techniques used on the battlefield.

     

    From the philosophy department, Professor Joseph Orosco discussed the Anarchist movement during the period of the WWI through the lens of a leading anarchist, Russian Prince Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921). In 1914 Kropotkin exchanged a letter arguing with a Swedish anarchist Stephan concerning the importance of the anarchist stance against Germany in WWI. Kropotkin considered a German victory a defeat for the cause, one that would result in militarism and absolutist power (he outlined this in his Manifesto of the 16, in which he refers to Germany as a threat to human evolution itself). The Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta (1853-1932) replied to Kropotkin’s assertions by arguing that the war in Germany was fueled by ‘the war state’ (what we might term now the military industrial complex) and it was a trans-European, even Eurasian, problem, not one local to Germany. The real challenge, Malatesta claimed, was to foster revolution against the system itself: by reconfiguring power structures between industry, state, and workers. In contrast to Kropotkin’s optimism that harmony would eventually prevail, Malatesta predicted that another war would follow the end of what many were calling ‘the war to end all wars’. Orosco emphasized the unpopularity of WWI. Governments had to hide the extent of lives lost to keep up the war effort and morale. Anarchists faced long sentences simply for distributing leaflets against the war.

     

    History professor, Jake Hamblin, emphasized the disillusionment provoked by WWI. Science, which through the nineteenth century had been increasingly associated with progress and hope, became seen as disturbingly implicated in maximizing death. Killing became an end in itself more than a means to win the war. Even seemingly innocuous scientific pursuits such as the study of weather became of strategic importance, as scientists learned to predict wind speed and direction to aid dispersal of poisonous gases on the front lines. WWI was widely perceived as a failure of civilization. Part of this was due to its wedding of science and warfare, and yet, we as a global society – perhaps particularly in the United States and the former Soviet Union – have shown a remarkable willingness to accept science’s role in warfare without questioning the ethical, moral, and rational dilemmas this poses. The scientist J. B. S. Haldane (1892-1964), for example, defended the use of chemical warfare on the grounds that “war is wrong, not a certain kind of war.” Thus, the basic principles of total warfare were in place long before the 1940s. The philosopher Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) once said that science is not, ‘a drift towards something better’. Indeed, in the specialization, mobilization, and deadly effect of science in WWI, Whitehead’s worst fears were realized with the key role that science played in developing weapons of mass destruction. Hamblin concluded with a question: Is our disillusionment in the wake of WWI due to the failure of science, or the failure of humanity to question our actions? Perhaps the real failure is that we continue to expect lethal advancements in science to be treated with restraint.

     

    The final panelist, Professor Kara Ritzheimer, analyzed WWI’s effects on the home front. Ritzheimer convincingly argued that the war effort had significant repercussions for notions of citizenship, increasing the expectations that citizens had about the rights to which they were entitled in exchange for the sacrifices they had made for their countries. Voting rights for women followed the war in many countries as a consequence of the important supporting role many women had played on the home front. Government benefits also increased as a result of WWI. In Germany, where one third of soldiers were husbands and/or fathers, up to half of German families received some sort of direct compensation from the government. For wives and children without husbands at home, this government paycheck was essential. Likewise, for those widows and orphans who would never see their loved one again, government death benefits were crucial to their survival. These government benefits were a continuation of voting reforms and policies from the mid-nineteenth century that had extended rights and amplified the role of the central government in individual, political, and social spheres during increasing industrialization. During WWI, Germans required welfare as never before– to aid businesses losing employees to the front, and in disability payments to wounded soldiers. However, as these social rights were granted, a reciprocal shrinkage in individual rights occurred. The Weimar Republic’s progressive programs begin this process, but the war played a fundamental role.

    -Tamara Caulkins and Matt McConnell

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        by Anna Dvorak*

        Source: Wikipedia
        Source: Wikipedia on “Wolves and Moose on Isle Royale”

        In his lecture “Laws of nature, historical contingency, and the wolves and moose of Isle Royale,” Dr. John A. Vucetich seeks to explain a new approach to the study of ecology that he uses with the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Project, which is the largest, continuously running predator/prey study in the world.  In his study of population dynamics on the island, he believes that unlike other scientific fields, like chemistry or physics, ecology is not strictly law-based.  Instead it is better studied like other historical events.  He refers to this as historical contingency and he defines his process in two parts.  This process explains population dynamics through a series of disparate random events, each of which has a legacy that has effects comparable in length to the waiting time in between these events.  Each candidate event is crucial to understanding the predator/prey relationship on Isle Royale and more specifically the predation rate of the moose.  Such candidate events in his analysis include novel disease, catastrophic winter, genetic rescue by introducing new wolves to the island, and the end of positive effects from the genetic rescue.  Periods in between these candidate events are characterized as either top-down or bottom-up.  It is these individual events that can be quantifiably explained and then compared to the laws of nature. Continue reading

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            by Joshua McGuffie

            McGuffie1 With summer drawing to a close, I took the opportunity to ride the Amtrak Coast Starlight from Albany, Oregon to Union Station in Los Angeles. I’d never taken the train for such a long trip, 28 hours each way. On such a long trip landscapes pass by, fixed in their space but transient in the rider’s experience. Each moment on the train creates a snapshot of the land. Being a rider is significantly different than being a driver on the interstate – not having to worry about truck traffic frees the mind to wander. As my mind wandered, four snapshots of human interaction with the passing terrain leapt out at me.

            The trip starts in Albany, Oregon. Seat of Linn County (‘The Grass Seed Capital of the World’), Albany quickly gives way to the rural Willamette Valley. Sheep, hay, and grass seed accompany the rider all the way to Eugene. In Oregon’s third city the tracks turn southeast to climb the Cascades through the Willamette and Deschutes National Forests. The transition from an agricultural landscape to a logging landscape is abrupt. Evergreen stands of varying ages blanket the landscape along with clearcuts and a web of logging roads. The Willamette played a part in the bitter spotted owl and old growth forest controversies. But, to a layman’s eyes on the train, the forest looks like a forest, not an historically controversial landscape. In this case, the train delves into the depths of environmental conflict but also shrouds it with the trappings of a scenic landscape. One hundred years ago, Einstein used the train to teach physicists the hidden truths of relativity. Today, as the train runs through the forest, it teaches us the often hidden truth that aesthetic beauty can obscure the extent of human alteration to an ecosystem. Continue reading

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                by Tamara Caulkins*
                Germain_5On May 20, 2014, the OSU Department of Mathematics sponsored a history lecture by Dr. David Pengelley, of New Mexico State University. Dr. Pengelley presented an animated lecture on the French mathematician, Sophie Germain (1776-1831). Dr. Pengelley’s interest in Germain was sparked by his use of primary historical sources in his teaching of mathematics. This led him to a store of Germain’s original manuscripts at the National Library of France, which had not been studied in over two hundred years. Revisiting Germain’s work as a mathematician, Dr. Pengelley found that Germain had developed a sophisticated plan for proving Fermat’s Last Theorem, making significant contributions to number theory. Until recently, her work was known only via a footnote in another mathematician’s treatise (Legendre, Essai sur la Théorie des Nombres, 1823). Particularly in an age when women were not well-educated and when they were excluded from scientific academies, Germain’s substantial achievements were indeed remarkable.

                Sophie Germain was only thirteen when the French Revolution broke out, forcing her to spend most of her time indoors. During that period, she turned to her father’s library. Fascinated by books on mathematics, she taught herself against her parent’s wishes (Pengelley relates that at one point they even took away her clothes and candles to prevent her from studying at night!). Germain’s father was a silk merchant so it was not through his mentorship that she developed her abilities but rather through her own effort and perseverance. At one point, Germain took on the identity of a student at the École Polytechnique who had died (Antoine-August LeBlanc). When the professor discovered that it was really a woman who was submitting such fine work under LeBlanc’s name, he was astonished. Germain eventually corresponded with Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855) in Göttingen, one of the most celebrated mathematicians of the time. Pengelley recounts that upon receiving a letter from Germain, Gauss praised the way she contributed to the “charms of this sublime science,” as giving him great joy. Continue reading

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                    by Joshua McGuffie*

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                    What images does wilderness evoke? For many, wilderness means pristine landscapes, scenic vistas, quietude, and wide open spaces. Many Americans may be surprised to know that, legally, wilderness has only been enshrined as a public reality for 50 years. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Wilderness Act, surrounded by an unlikely coalition of elected officials and preservationists. To celebrate the Wilderness Act’s 50th anniversary, Oregon State University’s Spring Creek Project hosted a panel discussion on 2 May to consider the Act’s genesis, life, and future.

                    Dr. Jacob Hamblin discussed important environmental moments leading up to the act. He particularly singled out public outcry over the Bureau of Reclamation’s Echo Park Project. The Bureau planned to build a series of dams along the Colorado, including within Grand Canyon National Park. Hamblin argued that potential incursions into ‘protected’ federal lands raised popular environmental consciousness and incentivized politicians to support preservation measures. With this background in mind, he asked the question “Is it possible to have a community of sincerity without common purpose?” That the Wilderness Act passed, with a variety of definitions for ‘wilderness’ built into its text, seems to indicate that such a community did in fact coalesce in the early 1960’s. Continue reading

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                        Ariana Snow and MJ Nyeby Ariana Meltvedt Snow*

                        These reflections result from a February 2014 address at OSU’s Center for the Humanities delivered by Mary Jo Nye, Professor Emerita of History at OSU.  Professor Nye, who spoke on “Biography and the History of Science,” has written biographies of many scientists including the English physicist and Nobel laureate P.M.S. Blackett (2004) and the Hungarian chemist and philosopher Michael Polanyi (2011).  Professor Nye suggested that there are three principal forms of biography in which the subject is a scientist: the life of the scientist, the scientific life, and the life of scientific collaboration.

                        Biographies of scientists, something not often encountered by undergraduate science majors like me, can enrich our knowledge of scientific practice and methods.  Good biographies can help us learn about and remember complex scientific concepts. I have come to think that the biography itself is a kind of science. Provided they are well-written and can hold the reader’s interest, biographies of scientists contribute to scientific literacy and allow for increased dissemination of information through the avenue of art. A biographer must be critical, aware, and objective in their work in order to produce writings that fully encompass the life and impact of the subject. Thus biography conveys scientific concepts in a way that this marine biology student and many non-scientists can grasp. Continue reading

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                            by Joshua McGuffie*

                            herzogOn Wednesday, February 19th, Dr. Dagmar Herzog, of the City University of New York, graced Oregon State with her lecture, “Sexuality in Europe: A 20th-Century History and a History of the Present.” She offered a lighthearted but academically thorough treatment of themes in European understandings of sexuality. In her lecture, Dr. Herzog focused on two concerns: first, the history and periodization of sexuality in the 20th Century and second, recent history and the path into the future.

                            After noting that “people are still made tense by a free and open discussion of sexuality,” Dr. Herzog launched into her talk, reminding the audience that the 20th Century has been called the “century of sex.” As such, the century has been characterized by a general liberalizing trend punctuated with sexually conservative backlashes. Sex, Dr. Herzog argued, became built into everything. Identity, privacy, civil rights, secularization, commerce and politics have internalized sex as a key theme. “Sex ends up annexing” almost every part of life in 20th Century Europe.

                            How did this happen? Continue reading

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                                Jon Butler

                                by Emily Simpson*

                                On Thursday November 21, Oregon State’s School of History, Philosophy, and Religion was privileged to welcome esteemed scholar of American religious history Jon Butler as part of the Horning Lecture Series.  His presentation God in Gotham is an interesting re-interpretation of the relationship between religious and secular aspects of life in New York City between the 1880s and 1960s.  He provides a variety of evidence to upturn the common idea of New York City’s standing as the capital of American secularism–from the culture of various religious communities, changes in immigration patterns, to the prominence of well-known religious architecture within the city.

                                New York City is a critical example of a fundamental problem that Dr. Butler sees in interpreting the history of religion.  How do we draw strict lines between what is a secular age and what is a religious age?  To argue against the notion that the world of religion has fallen to secular society, Dr. Butler first re-evaluates the state of harmony that we often see when Western religious influence was at its peak-the medieval period.  According to Dr. Butler, there has never been a point in history where religion was not a disputed issue.  The total unity of ideas within medieval society is a myth.

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                                    by Mason Tattersall*

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                                    Last Tuesday the Horning Lecture Series was pleased to present James Moore’s engrossing lecture on Darwin’s Sacred Cause. Moore, along with Adrian Desmond, penned one of the classic biographies of Darwin (1991’s Darwin).  As Moore related in his opening remarks on Tuesday, when the two had finished with Darwin, they were left with a nagging question: Given Darwin’s reclusive, gentlemanly, and non-confrontational personality, what could possibly have motivated him to produce and publish a theory so guaranteed to bring conflict down upon his head? In his talk on Tuesday, Moore presented his answer, explained in rich detail in Moore and Desmond’s Darwin’s Sacred Cause (2009).

                                     

                                    “Why did Darwin risk his reputation to promote an heretical theory?”

                                     

                                    Moore argues that it was Darwin’s hatred of the institution of slavery, instilled in him from early childhood that provided the motivating passion behind the scientific breakthrough. Through expert use of textual and visual materials, Moore led the audience through a brief overview of Darwin’s progress toward his theories of evolution through natural selection and the descent of man and sexual selection from the point of view of his connections to the world of anti-slavery activism.

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                                        by Laura Cray*

                                        23793_1As a self-professed library nerd, I was excited to attend Robert Fox’s lecture, Mapping the Universe of Knowledge, on Monday, May 6, 2013.  The lecture focused on work of Paul Otlet, Henri La Fontaine, and Hendrick Christian Andersen and their vision for a world united by knowledge.  Robert Fox is professor emeritus from Oxford University and currently visiting Oregon State University as this year’s Horning Visiting Scholar.  Monday’s lecture was the first installment in his three part series of lectures entitled, Science International: Universalism and National Interest in the Industrial Age.

                                        Having spent most of my life in the age of Google, I think that it is easy to take Otlet’s vision for the Bibliographic Institute founded in Brussels in 1895 for granted.  But, his incredibly detailed Universal Bibliographic Repertory (a variation of the Dewey Decimal System) and the over 15 million entries in his card catalogue represent a vision which extended far beyond his ordered library shelves.  As Fox argues, Continue reading

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