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Arsenical Pesticides in Early Francoist Spain: Fascism, Autarky, Agricultural Engineers and the Invisibility of Toxic Risks

Abstract

Lead arsenate was introduced on a massive scale in agriculture in Spain in the early 1940s. With the support of a network of agricultural engineers, the new Francoist state encouraged the production and use of lead arsenate as the main weapon against a newly arrived pest, the Colorado potato beetle. In this paper I discuss arsenical pesticides as sociotechnological products which played a pivotal role in the joint production of both chemical-based agriculture and the emerging Francoist regime in Spain during the 1940s. I review the campaigns organized by agriculture engineers and the making of the new National Register for Phytosanitary Products in 1942. The new regulations promoted research in pesticide quality control but also contributed to concealing the health hazards. This invisibilization of the risks took shape in the confluence of interests of the emerging Francoist state, the new pesticide industry, and the large network of agricultural engineers.

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Communicating Science and Technology. Gradiva’s Books of Popularization of Science and Technology and the Portuguese Public

Abstract

By focusing on the books of popularization of science and technology published by Gradiva this research aims at understanding the mechanisms and strategies to bring science and technology to a broader audience in Portugal, after 1974, the year of the Carnation Revolution that put an end to a long half century dictatorship. I use a mix conceptual framework: on the one hand, I use the scientific literacy and public understanding of science and technology main references to explore the public’s behavior and opinion concerning scientific and technological knowledge; on the other hand, I analyze Gradiva’s choices concerning the collections aimed at popularizing science and technology. So, I hope to contribute to map the perception of the Portuguese public about techno-scientific themes that influence their life and decisions, to understand how scientists relate to scientific and technological popularization literature and to assess scientific literacy in the Portuguese population.

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Dominance of the Digital (1990–2016)

Abstract

This talk presents the theme that anchors the new third edition of Leonardo to the Internet: Technology and Culture from the Renaissance to the Present, which is organized around technical-economic-political “eras” spotlighting the long-term interactions of technology and culture. The book’s first edition (2004) concluded with an optimistic assessment of global culture, then added a pessimistic assessment of systemic risk (2011). The eras point to socio-economic structures that foster and channel the development of certain technologies (and not others). This approach steers for a middle ground between social constructivism and technological determinism. This talk analyzes Moore’s Law (1975–2005), widely hailed to explain, well, everything. By 1975 Gordon Moore appeared to accurately “predict” the doubling every 18 months of the number components on each integrated circuit. During these years chips expanded from roughly 2,000 to 600 million transistors; more important the “law” guided a technical revolution and an industry transformation. At first national and then international cooperative “roadmapping” exercises predicted the exact dimensions of chips in the future, and semiconductor companies all aimed exactly where their peers were aiming. So Moore’s Law is a self-fulfilling prophecy supported for three decades by inter-firm cooperation and synchronized R&D.

Open access
Following Hydrogen Cyanide in the Valencian Country (1907-1933): Risk, Accidents and Standards in Fumigation

Abstract

Pests had represented a major problem in agriculture for centuries, but the huge changes in the food chain around the late nineteenth century intensified their effects in a totally unprecedented way and many new chemical substances were introduced in the attempt to control them. In this paper I will focus on the implementation of hydrogen cyanide, a highly toxic pesticide which has not received particular consideration from researchers to date.

I shall analyse the introduction of this pesticide in the Valencian Country and focus on the attention given to the safety of workers and consumers. I aim to examine the role of the poison in its different uses and analyse the impact of each of them on safety regulations. Risks, accidents, and standards will be the main analytical categories I will use in my exploration of hydrogen cyanide and the safety regulations implemented in each context.

Open access
Influencing for Results: Bees, Beekeepers and Norwegian Pesticide Legislation

Abstract

Many who are worried about the disappearance of pollinating insects, question the role of pesticides and point to the need for stricter legislation regulating the use of these chemicals. This article studies the years between 1933 and 1953, when legislation regulating the use of pesticides against insects and weeds was established in Norway. It analyses how knowledge about effects of pesticides circulated from Norwegian honeybees, to their beekeepers and their network. It suggests that the actors’ position and standing influenced what knowledge they put into circulation and what knowledge they suppressed. A knowledge hierarchy meant that some actors were powerful enough to influence the discourse on toxicity, established in those years.

Open access
Introduction. Pesticides: Past and Present
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“Carte-á-figure” maps of Poland: dates, states, and provenances

Abstract

After short introduction to carte-á-figure genre of maps discussed are three maps of Poland belonging to this category: the first state of Hondius’ Nova POLONIAE delineatio”, Visscher’s “Haec Tabula nova POLONIAE et SILESIAE, and Speed’s A NEWE MAPE OF POLAND. For the origin of the Hondius’ map a more precise range of dates is proposed. Question of the Visscher map’s order of states is clarified, supported by evidence from the author’s research. Finally, line of reasoning is presented and arguments quoted disproving widely held belief in priority of the Speed’s map over the Visscher’s. Also, dissimilarities between images of Silesia on Hondius’ and Visscher’s maps together with possible reasons of these are considered.

Open access