The Fifth John McDonald Moore Memorial Lecture is delivered by Peter L. Galison
, historian, writer, filmmaker and the Pellegrino University Professor in History of Science and Physics at Harvard University. Galison won the Max Planck Prize in 1999, was appointed a MacArthur Foundation Fellow in 1997 and a Guggenheim Fellow in 2009.
In this lecture, Galison addresses speculation as it pertains to inaccessible sites, in particular “nuclear wastelands” and “pure wilderness.” As they are usually understood, these designations are opposites; when they converge into nature preserves on the sites of decommissioned nuclear weapons lands we often describe this circumstance as “paradoxical” or “ironic.” Taking stock of plans to handle lands that will remain saturated with radionuclides for tens of thousands of years, Galison argues that the categories of wastelands and wilderness are far from dichotomous; that their relation is far more intriguing (and disturbing) than a binary of purity and corruption. Removing parts of the earth in perpetuity – for reasons of sanctification or despoilment – alters a central feature of the human self, presenting us in a different relation to the physical world, and raising irreducible questions about who we are when land can be classified, forever, as not for us humans.
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Peter L. Galison is a historian, writer, filmmaker and the Pellegrino University Professor in History of Science and Physics at Harvard University.
Galison’s publication Image & Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics (1998) won the Pfizer Award from the History of Science Society. His book Einstein’s Clocks and Poincare’s Maps: Empires of Time (2003) was one of the first to draw close links between the young German physicist Albert Einstein and the French mathematician Henri Poincaré who made parallel attempts to harness time and helped create the science of relativity. He co-wrote Objectivity (2007) with Lorraine Daston, the executive director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. Their book examined how the idea of scientific objectivity evolved from the 17th century to the present day. He is currently finishing another book, Building Crashing Thinking, about technologies that reform the self.
Galison has been involved in the production of two documentary films. He wrote and produced The Ultimate Weapon: The H-Bomb Dilemma (2000). The film exposed the political and scientific decisions behind the creation of the first hydrogen bomb in the United States. He also co-directed Secrecy (2008) with Harvard filmmaker Robb Moss, which investigated the costs and benefits of government secrecy. He is beginning a new feature documentary film on nuclear landscapes.
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Named after one of The New School’s most influential teachers who lectured on art history from 1968 until his death in 1999, this lecture series honors John McDonald Moore’s contribution to the university’s intellectual life. Past lectures have been given by Michael Brenson, Linda Nochlin, Stephanie Barron and Boris Groys.