John Bigelow Professor of History (Ph.D. Princeton University)
Teaching and Research Interests
I teach modern European history, with special emphasis on modern German history and the history of ideas, as well as the history of science and technology, with special emphasis on nuclear history, human evolution, and the interaction of science and technology with politics and ideology.
I research and publish on twentieth-century science, including in particular science and technology under National Socialism, and comparisons of science and technology in different political, cultural, and ideological contexts.
German National Socialism and the Quest for Nuclear Power, 1939-49
Cambridge University Press, 1989
This book examines the German efforts to harness the economic, military and political power of nuclear fission between 1939 and 1949. It argues that the German decision not to attempt the production of nuclear weapons during World War II came as a result of economic and political developments, not scientific or moral considerations, and was at the time a perfectly reasonable policy. Nuclear fission research is also placed in the contexts of the war effort and German cultural imperialism, including the plunder and exploitation of "Greater Germany," the German slave labor economy, and the ambivalent interaction between the Nazi party and the German physicists.
The book begins at the height of the Empire, and carries the story through to the founding of the two postwar republics in order to emphasize continuity before and after the Third Reich, and to compare the scientists' activity during the war and after the shock of Hiroshima and the Nuremberg trials. Throughout, this book explains clearly, in terms that the non-specialist can understand, what was involved in the Germans' quest, and in what ways the German scientists succeeded or failed in the development of "the bomb."
Die Uranmaschine. Mythos und Wirklichkeit der deutschen Atombombe (Berlin, Siedler Verlag, 1990)
German version of German National Socialism and the Quest for Nuclear Power, 1939-1949 (see below)
Science, Medicine and Cultural Imperialism
Teresa Meade (Editor) and Mark Walker (Editor)
St. Martin's Press, 1991
Science, Medicine and Cultural Imperialism describes the ways that European powers used science and scientific inquiry to enforce their cultural superiority on societies of Africa, Asia and Latin America. The book shows the uses of scientific theory as well as the role of applied science technology in colonial and post-colonial societies dominated by British, French, Portuguese, Spanish and American culture over the past three centuries. A main strength of this collection is the attention paid to the way science, medicine and public health policies affect racial, sexual, national and international relations between and within societies.
Science, Technology, and National Socialism
Monika Renneberg (Editor) and Mark Walker (Editor), Mark Walker (Editor)
Cambridge University Press, 1993
Science and technology under Hitler have always held a special fascination for historians, scientists, engineers, and the general public. Until now most books have focused on such obvious "perversions" as the "Nazi doctors" or the "German atom bomb." This book provides a more varied and balanced picture by including many different projects and disciplines, by including the period before and after the Third Reich, and by investigating "normal" as well as "perverted" sciences and technologies. Overall the volume offers the best study available of the consequential interaction of science and technology with National Socialism in Germany.
Nazi Science: Myth, Truth, and the German Atomic Bomb
Perseus Publishing, 1995
Nazi Science brings to light the overwhelming impact of Hitler's regime on science and, ultimately, on the pursuit of the German atomic bomb. The role of German scientists in the rise and fall of the Third Reich is investigated, including whether most German scientists during Hitler's regime enthusiastically embraced the tenets of National Socialism or cooperated in a Faustian pact for financial support, which contributed to National Socialism's running rampant and culminated in the rape of Europe and the genocide of millions of Jews. This work unravels the myths and controversies surrounding Hitler's atomic bomb project.
Bomba atomowa Hitlera. Mit i prawda o nazistowskiej fizyce jądrowej (Warsaw: Amber, 1999)
Polish version of Nazi Science: Myth, Truth, and the German Atomic
Science and Ideology: A Comparative History
Science and Ideology brings together a number of comparative case studies to examine the relationship between science and the dominant ideology of a state. Cybernetics developments in the USA are compared to that of France and the Soviet Union. Postwar Allied science policy in occupied Germany is juxtaposed to that in Japan. The essays are narrowly focused, yet cover a wide range of countries and ideologies. The collection provides a unique comparative history of scientific policies and practices in the twentieth century.
Politics and Science in Wartime: Comparative International Perspectives on Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes
Carola Sachse (Editor) and Mark Walker (Editor)
OSIRIS Volume 20, University of Chicago Press, 2005
Politics and Science in Wartime brings together a team of internationally known scholars who compare science and its practices in the Third Reich to that in other wartime nations. Their nuanced conclusions on topics ranging from scientific mobilization and purges to the ethics of scientific practice offer new perspectives on science under extreme political conditions.
Physiker zwischen Autonomie und Anpassung - Die DPG im Dritte Reich Dieter Hoffmann(Editor)and Mark Walker (Editor)
What role did the German Physical Society play in the years under National Socialist dominance, which position did it take in the process of reorienting science, and what was its position in the political structure of the Third Reich? What influence did the representatives of the so-called "Aryan Physics" have in the society and in the physics of the time in general. Were physicists during the Third Reich able to avoid collaborating with a totalitarian and criminal regime?
A group of respected scholars try to provide answers to these questions and thereby illuminate both the scientific and social aspects of the history of the German Physical Society trapped between its need for political accommodation and its efforts to retain scientific autonomy.
The Kaiser Wilhelm Society during National Socialism
Susanne Heim (Editor), Carola Sachse (Editor), and Mark Walker (Editor)
Cambridge University Press, 2009
During the first part of the twentieth century, German science led the world. The most important scientific institution in Germany was the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, including institutes devoted to different fields of scientific research. Because these institutions were notconnected to universities, researchers in them were not burdened by teaching obligations and enjoyed excellent financial and material support.
When the National Socialists came to power in Germany, all of German society, including science, was affected. The picture that previously dominated our understanding of science under National Socialism from the end of the Second World War to the recent past -- a picture of leading Nazis ignorant and unappreciative of modern science and of scientists struggling to resist the Nazis - needs to be revised.
This book surveys the history of Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes under Hitler, illustrating definitively the cooperation, if not collaboration, between scientists and National Socialists to further the goals of autarky, racial hygiene, war, and genocide.
Physics and the German Research Foundation
Helmuth Trischler (Editor) and Mark Walker (Editor)
Franz Steiner, 2010
Science - with physics center-stage - and politics are two discrete but strongly intertwined parts of society. The book discusses the complex relationship between politics, especially the sharp political caesuras in 20th century
German history, on the one hand and the manifold continuities in physics of the same period on the other hand. A first set of articles frames the organizational systems and performative structures of funding and supporting research as part of the political subsystem of society. A second set of comparative articles tackles regions and countries which are usually not in the focus of historians of science: the Ukraine, Japan, and China.
The volume results from the research program on the history of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft from 1920 to 1970 and seeks to place the history of the DFG into contexts.
“Fremde Wissenschaftler” im Dritten Reich. Die Debye-Affäre im Kontext
Dieter Hoffmann (Editor) and Mark Walker (Editor)
In the spring of 2006, the so-called “Debye-Affair” shook the scientific public. The Dutch physicist and Nobel laureate was accused of having been a stooge of the National Socialists. Beginning with this accusation, the authors investigate the scientific and political contexts of Peter Debye’s life and work, comparing and contrasting his biography with those of other foreign scientists who worked under or for the Third Reich. These include Jewish scientists like Hartmut Kallmann and Lise Meitner, who the National Socialists made into “foreigners” in their own land, and scientists who worked under the wartime German occupation of their countries.
The German Physical Society in the Third Reich: Physicists between Autonomy and Accomodation
Dieter Hoffmann (Editor) and Mark Walker (Editor)
Cambridge University Press, 2012
English version of Physiker zwischen Autonomie und Anpassung (see above)
Mark Walker, "Otto Hahn: Verantwortung und Verdrängung," in Carola Sachse (Editor), Ergebnisse. Vorabdrucke aus dem Forschungsprogramm "Geschichte der Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft im Nationalsozialismus," No. 10 (Berlin: Forschungsprogramm, 2003 (pdf)
Rainer Karlsch and Mark Walker, "New Light on Hitler's Bomb,"Physics World, (June, 2005), 15-18 (pdf)
Mark Walker, "Eine Waffenschmiede? Kernwaffen- und Reaktorforschung am Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut für Physik," in Rüdiger Hachtmann (Editor), Ergebnisse. Vorabdrucke aus dem Forschungsprogramm "Geschichte der Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft im Nationalsozialismus, No. 26 (Berlin: Forschungsprogramm, 2005) (pdf)