"Physics and the Great War"

Location: St Cross College

Date: Saturday 13 June 2015

Time: 10:30 - 17:00


Arguably the First World War saw the greatest advent of new science and technology and the role of science in warfare than any conflict hitherto. On land the innovations of barbed wire, machine guns and eventually, tanks changed the nature of land battles. At sea, radio communications changed operation of surface fleets and the introduction of submarine warfare changed the nature of war at sea. This war saw also the advent of aerial warfare which was to change the nature of all future wars. This conference seeks to review the key ways in which physics and its mathematics changed the nature of conflict from various points of views: technical, historical and sociological.

The programme for the day is below:

MORNING CHAIR: Dr Patricia Fara (University of Cambridge)

10.30 am WELCOME

10.40 am Professor David Edgerton (King's College London) - The Sciences and the Great War: Myths and Histories [PDF]

11.30 am Dr Elizabeth Bruton (Museum of the History of Science, Oxford) - Hydrophones and Piezoelectricity: Ernest Rutherford and Anti-submarine Innovations in the Royal Navy during World War I [VIDEO]

12.20 pm Professor Adrian Smith (University of Southampton) - Warfare and Wind Tunnel: Engineers, Physicists and the Evolution of Combat Aircraft (1914-1918) [VIDEO]


AFTERNOON CHAIR: Professor Ray Monk (University of Southampton)

2.15 pm Dr Arne Schirrmacher (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) - On the (Self-)Mobilization of Scientists in Germany, France and Britain: The Impact on Physics in War and thereafter [VIDEO]

3.05 pm Dr Don Leggett (Nazarbayev University) - Reward, Credibility and the Amateur Inventor in the Great War [VIDEO]


4.30 pm SUMMARY OF THE DAY'S PROCEEDINGS - Dr Michael Weatherburn (Imperial College) [VIDEO]

There will be a conference dinner at St Cross in the evening following the end of the conference with an after-dinner talk by Dr Adam Hart-Davis  (science author and broadcaster) on inventions during the First World War.