NBA History of Science Seminar – Niels Bohr Institute - University of Copenhagen

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NBA History of Science Seminar

Matthias Heymann, Steno Institute, Aarhus University

Modelling reality: How scientists simulated pollutant transport in Europe and invented a new science

The acidification of Scandinavian lakes became a matter of political
debate in the 1950s and 1960s. Where did the acid come from? Norwegian
and Swedish scientists set out to prove the origin of lake pollution.
UK, Belgium and Germany were considered the main suspects, certainly an
allegation of political delicacy. Political interest, sufficient
research funds, new technology (computers) and the invention of a new
form of scientific knowledge production (atmospheric modelling) helped
to construct the evidence - and to pave the way for a new branch of
science. Three questions will be addressed in my paper: Which scientific
practices were developed in atmospheric modelling? What specific
features do these practices and forms of knowledge have? And why were
these new and shaky forms of knowledge accepted - even by the suspects?