International studies


Inherit a Problem: How Lysenkoism Ruined Soviet Plant Genetics and Perpetuated Famine under Stalin, Khrushchev—and Mao

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Part of the power of Readex’s new Morality and Science: Global Origins of Modern Bioethics is the access it affords to primary material that is otherwise difficult to obtain in English-language translations. This is certainly true when it comes to the suppressed Soviet controversy regarding Lysenkoism as a credible expression of the tenets of evolutionary biology. That debate bears a striking resemblance to America’s love/hate relationship with climate change as a consequence of global warming in which human actions are held to play a significant role—or not. And the parallels go deeper still.

In 1925 America had a problem with evolution, or rather with government endorsement of Charles Darwin’s widely accepted theory of “natural selection” which implied that human beings were the descendants of primates rather than created in the semblance of a divine being. The “Scopes Monkey Trial” of that year pitted orator William Jennings Bryan against highly regarded attorney Clarence Darrow in a bid to punish (or free) John Scopes, a Tennessee high school teacher who taught evolution rather than creationism. Scopes was jailed for doing so under Tennessee’s Butler Act of 1925, which prohibited the denial of creationism in public education. The case was ultimately invalidated on technical grounds during an appeal of the initial ruling to fine Scopes $100. It became the template for the 1955 play Inherit the Wind, which was later made into a motion picture.

Inherit a Problem: How Lysenkoism Ruined Soviet Plant Genetics and Perpetuated Famine under Stalin, Khrushchev—and Mao

“An Alluring Magnet”: The Cold War, Martian Exploration, and the Pull of the Red Planet

 

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More than a thousand years ago, Egyptians noticed a shining red object that seemed to wander through the night sky. Fascinated, they painted the celestial body onto star charts and the ceiling of tombs. Chinese, Greek, Roman and other ancient astronomers also tracked the red planet, making up stories about it and attributing it with an array of astrological powers.

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In more modern times, too, people obsess over Mars. It has stunning topography, with a volcano three times higher than Mount Everest and gorges four times deeper than the Grand Canyon. Massive windstorms shape its sands into ever-shifting, otherworldly dunes. Its surface temperature is 138 degrees Fahrenheit colder than Earth’s, and its atmosphere deadly thin. Although liquid water once pooled and coursed across the surface of Mars, that water seems largely locked up as ice today.

“An Alluring Magnet”: The Cold War, Martian Exploration, and the Pull of the Red Planet

“Expanding human control over nature:” How the CIA created a record for understanding the controversy over genetic engineering

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In 2018, a Chinese scientist named He Jiankui secretly altered the DNA of a pair of human embryos to make them resistant to the HIV virus. When the twin babies were born and Dr. He announced what he’d done, scientists and governments around the world condemned him. One researcher called his actions “unconscionable...an experiment on human beings that is not morally or ethically defensible.” The Chinese government launched an investigation, and media circulated calls to ban or limit the technology that made the genetic engineering possible.

The CIA, no doubt, was paying attention to the whole hoopla. Although the twin babies represent the current apogee of genetic engineering, Dr. He’s work was predicated on decades of research and debate—much of which was monitored by the CIA, which has experimented with using genetically-engineered insects and other animals as instruments of espionage.

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“Expanding human control over nature:” How the CIA created a record for understanding the controversy over genetic engineering

“As if Moved by a Ghostly Hand”: CIA Monitoring and the Emergence of Modern Robotics

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The word robot comes from the Czechoslovakian word robotnik, meaning “forced labor,” or “slave.” And indeed, since it was coined by Czech writer Karl Čapek in 1920, people have both feared and fantasized about robots. Friendly ones, like The Jetsons’ housecleaner Rosie or Star Wars’ C3PO, exist to make our lives easier. But lurking behind their helpfulness is the prospect of malevolence, a suspicion that the machines we’ve built in our image could turn on us. As Bladerunner artfully captured, becoming too dependent on robots could make us—not them—the real slaves.

Yet while pop culture reflects society’s conflicted feelings about automation, the scientific fields of robotics and artificial intelligence have marched forward with less ambiguity. Robots have transformed from clunky, bumbling machines to sleek, capable devices that deliver packages, vacuum our floors, and manufacture items we use every day. As these machines encroach deeper into our lives, the question of how we got here is increasingly relevant to scientific historians and other researchers. What philosophical, technical and cultural advances led to the automated world we now inhabit?

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“As if Moved by a Ghostly Hand”: CIA Monitoring and the Emergence of Modern Robotics

A Nebulous New Threat: Tracing the Intersection of Climate Science and Foreign Policy

Earlier this year, the United States Department of Defense and U.S. Intelligence Community issued reports warning that human-caused climate change is already exacerbating national security threats and global instability—a problem that’s only expected to worsen in coming decades. Among the impacts listed are rising sea levels that could flood U.S. military bases on Pacific islands; punishing drought that’s driving conflicts in East Africa; and melting Arctic sea ice reinvigorating competition for natural resources between the U.S., Russia and China.

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Yet while the ways in which climate change fuels conflict and instability are ever evolving, the threat itself is hardly new. As early as the 1980s, the U.S. Naval War College began studying the intersection of global warming and American security. And a division of the CIA that monitored, recorded and translated into English thousands of foreign broadcasts and publications has been tracking international research on the issue for even longer. Today, these reports, found in Climate Science and Sustainability, offer a compelling archive for researchers interested in tracking how governments around the world have responded to the growing threat of climate change over time.

A Nebulous New Threat: Tracing the Intersection of Climate Science and Foreign Policy

“Not the sort of thing one forgets”: Using primary source documents to trace the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster

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On April 26, 1986, a safety experiment at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine went terribly awry, unleashing plumes of fire and invisible radioactive particles that rained down on surrounding towns and cities. Considered the worst nuclear accident in history, the Chernobyl disaster exposed millions of people to radiation and displaced some 200,000 people from their homes.

Yet coverage of the disaster by the Soviet government and state media was shockingly circumspect, focusing on the valiant efforts of workers rather than the devastation experienced by innocent people and animals. A July 1986 report from Pravda, the official newspaper of the USSR, for example, praised the “organized and precise work” of cleanup crews, adding that “many of the power station workers serving the power units are setting examples of courage [muzhestvo] and enthusiasm in their labor.”

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“Not the sort of thing one forgets”: Using primary source documents to trace the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster

Now available for trial: Origins of Modern Science and Technology

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Readex has released a new family of digital resources that support learning and research across STEM and humanities disciplines. Each of these five fully searchable collections is comprised of thousands of primary source documents from around the world, collected and translated into English by the Central Intelligence Agency between 1957 and 1995:

Now available for trial: Origins of Modern Science and Technology

“The Mata Hari of the Far East”: Uncovering the Incredible Story of Yoshiko Kawashima in Open Source Intelligence Reports

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The story reads like a tale from a 1930s pulp fiction magazine: A cross-dressing Manchu princess makes a daring a nighttime escape by horseback across the steppes, becomes a spy for the Japanese, poses as a prostitute in opium dens around China and Siberia, is arrested and is executed—all set against the backdrop of the Chinese Revolution of 1912, the Japanese invasion of China, and World War II.

It may sound like fiction, but the true story of the Manchu princess, Yoshiko Kawashima, was of such interest to the United States government in the 1940s that a branch of the Central Intelligence Agency known as the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) avidly gathered information about Kawashima. Among the articles selected and transcribed by the FBIS were three dispatches filed to Reuters from Chungking, China, on April 12, 13, and 14, 1945. They were reported in English Morse by “Correspondent Shen.” Shen opened his first dispatch this way:

“The Mata Hari of the Far East”: Uncovering the Incredible Story of Yoshiko Kawashima in Open Source Intelligence Reports

Readex introduces new digital collections for both STEM and humanities courses

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Readex is pleased to announce a diverse array of new digital collections for teaching and research across the humanities and increasingly studied STEM fields. To learn more, visit Readex at booth 2525 during the American Library Association annual conference or use the links below to request more information.


Origins of Modern Science and Technology

Global Perspectives from the CIA Archives

Request Info

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Featuring these five individually available products:

Computing and Artificial Intelligence

Global Origins of the Digital Age

Climate Science and Sustainability

Global Origins of Modern Environmentalism

Aeronautics and Space Flight

Global Origins of Modern Aviation and Rocketry

Morality and Science

Global Origins of Modern Bioethics

Nuclear Energy

Global Origins of Energy Resource Management in the Atomic Age

 


 

Readex introduces new digital collections for both STEM and humanities courses

Rhyming Verse Reveal, Wielded Women, and a Fraught Freedom: Readex Report (March 2019)

In this issue: Ferreting out forgotten verses of a gifted female poet; using women’s reputations as weapons in Jacksonian Era politics; and Caribbean slaves take faltering steps toward freedom.


The Value of Digitized Newspaper Collections in Researching Neglected Women’s Writing: Two Newly Recovered Works by Ella Rhoads Higginson, First Poet Laureate of Washington State

Laura Laffrado, Professor of English, Western Washington University

RR March 2019 1.jpgIn recent years, my scholarly efforts have been devoted to the recovery of Ella Rhoads Higginson (1862?-1940), the first prominent literary author from the U.S. Pacific Northwest and the first Poet Laureate of Washington State. Internationally celebrated for her writing, Higginson put the Pacific Northwest on the literary map. People across the nation and around the world were first introduced to the Pacific Northwest and the people who lived there when they read Higginson’s award-winning… > Full Story


The Role of Women in Early American Presidential Campaigns: Using Newspapers to Explore the Informal Politics of the Jacksonian Era

Rhyming Verse Reveal, Wielded Women, and a Fraught Freedom: Readex Report (March 2019)

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