Videnskabshistorisk Selskab

Indbydelse til foredrag ved:

Mats Fridlund,
Teknologihistorie, Danmarks Tekniske Universitet:

Explosive knowledge: The history of the science and technology of terrorist bomb-making

Three central elements in the history of science and technology of terrorism can be described as "the bomb, the bullet and the book". The 1850s saw the invention of dynamite and the establishment of a "revolver culture" constituting a widespread availability and use of mass-produced, cheap and reliable revolvers and both of these were soon appropriated by "terrorists". "The bomb" was brought into terrorist practice through the Russian scientist Nikolai Kibalchich who in the 1880s developed the first dynamite bombs of the Russian terrorist organisation the People's Will.

These were two important ways in which scientific and technological knowledge contributed to making possible a new kind of terrorism at the end of the 19th century. Another way was through "the book", i.e. manuals written to explain how to make and use bombs. One of these was known in English as The Science of Revolutionary Warfare and was written by the German-American anarchist Johann Most. He, according to historian of terrorism Walter Laqueur, was a pioneer of "the philosophy of using weapons of mass destruction and a more or less systematic doctrine of terrorism" and he saw science and technology as providing new tools for terror and through this as giving anarchists a great advantage. To propagate and enhance this, Most took employment in an American munitions factory and began publishing how-to instructions for bomb-making in anarchist journals. These were later collected into the pamphlet Revolutionäre Kriegswissenschaft: Ein Handbüchlein zur Anleitung betreffend Gebrauches und Herstellung von Nitro-Glycerin, Dynamit, Schießbaumwolle, Knallquecksilber, Bomben, Brandsätzen, Giften usw. (New York, 1885)

In the talk the different technologies of terrorism together with several of these 19th- and 20th-century manuals for bomb-making will be discussed and in particular what role scientific and technological expertise in them and among its authors made possible new material means for terrorism in the form of books and bombs.

tirsdag, den 31. oktober 2006, kl. 19.45
i auditorium 10, på H. C. Ørsted Instituttet,
Universitetsparken 5, København

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In English