Nuclear controversies central issue of Tyler Lectures Series

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September 26, 2011

11:35 PM

A small group of professors from the department of history at the College of William and Mary joined intellectual forces to create the ‘Tyler Lectures’ for the 2011-2012 school year. This year’s topic of discussion is “Nuclear World Controversies.”

The Tyler Lecture Series is an annual lecture series centered on an historical theme, where a few knowledgeable experts on the subject come and talk to students.

“Each year there is a different committee that chooses the lecture topic. This year was professors Frederick Corney and Andrew Fisher and myself,” professor Hiroshi Kitamura said. “We have all been conducting research, have studied issues, or are teaching a course that closely relates to the topic.”

“Nuclear World Controversies” covers the benefits and downsides to nuclear power and its effect on U.S. history.

“Our hope,” Kitamura said, “is that this will encourage people to continue to think about nuclear issues in a much broader scope instead of just storing it in short term memory.”

With the recent post-tsunami nuclear meltdown in Japan, the recent shutdown of a nuclear power plant in Louisa County, Va. and ongoing concern about terrorism and nuclear weapons, the topic is decidedly relevant.

“Nuclear issues cross over many boundaries including physics, environmental science, politics, history and even chemistry. There are so many fields touched by the issue that makes the study of it a forefront issue,” Kitamura said. “Through the lectures you can understand one topic through multiple dimensions.”

Andrew Rotter is a history professor at Colgate University who has conducted research, published many books about U.S. diplomatic history, the Vietnam War and U.S.-Asia relations. Rotter visited the College Sept. 15 and spoke on “Narratives of Bombing: Tokyo and Hiroshima, 1945,” comparing the firebombing of Tokyo to the bombing of Hiroshima.

“I made points about historical voyeurism and exposure, the importance of language and witness,” Rotter said. “And I argued, finally and principally, that bombing was by 1945 part of a continuum of atrocity that started when war planners had decided it was legal, morally acceptable and even merciful to attack non-combatants from the air.”

Professor Katie Brown of University of Maryland-Baltimore County will deliver a lecture entitled “Irrevocable: The Life-Changing, Society-Altering Significance of Plutonium in the U.S. and USSR” Oct. 13 in Andrews Hall.

“The speakers were deliberately contacted and lined up because they are all top authorities in the subject matter,” Kitamura said. “”Like it or not, we live in a nuclear world today. This is why we need to think about its complex effects on our everyday lives and how to deal with it.”

Finally, professor emeritus Lawrence S. Wittner of the State University of New York in Albany will be arriving on campus Oct. 27 to explore “How Peace Activists Saved the World from Nuclear War.” With his recently published book entitled “Confronting the Bomb,” Wittner will be addressing the basic premise that popular protest curbed the nuclear arms race.

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