The Science of Warfare … Part 1

Remembering the past, helping with the future

The Science of Warfare … Part 1

24th July 2017 Veterans World War I World War II 0

The Science of Warfare (and what our relatives experienced in the name of science)

Science covers mathematics, chemistry, physics and biology so whatever we do in life, science has some part to play.  But science also has a very dark side.  The first guns and rounds for weapons were developed using science as was indeed gunpowder.

I finished watching the TV series ‘Genius’ last night.  The programme starred Johnny Flynn, brother of the older Jerome from Solider Soldier fame, and Geoffrey Rush.  Both actors played the role of Albert Einstein at different times in his life. He was portrayed from his early years in the 1880’s attempting to get a place in a University right through to his death in 1955.

Now most, probably like me, might think of Einstein as a slightly strange looking man with wild white hair, or perhaps E=MC² might spring to mind, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, seen as one of the two pillars of modern physics, the other being the Quantum Theory, which Einstein also played a part in.  He was of course one of the world’s greatest scientific minds.  But having never really given him or his theories much attention I was not aware that he was German, although he did denounce his German nationality early in his career to study in other places.  But he did live in Germany on and off for many years of his life.  He was an outright pacifist and non-political, affiliating himself with no political parties or views unless they had some impact in Science.  And he was a Jew, although non-practicing, but still of Jewish origin.

Of course the story told is of the young Albert trying to find a University to take him on and when he finally does obtain a degree he starts work on his fascination with the Cosmos and Relativity Theories as well as teaching and lecturing.

Genius showed how he became part of the group of German scientists in Berlin, who really were leading the world in terms of new discoveries, theories and virtually every scientific phenomena of the day.  But the story also vividly showed the darker side of the great Scientist himself as well as science with the undercurrent of developments that were happening in Europe in the early parts of the 20th and particularly leading up to WW1 and then further in the 1930s.

It was German scientists, indeed a colleague of Einstein who with his team scientifically developed and started testing poisonous gasses on live rats in laboratories in Berlin which led to the introduction of the dreaded mustard gas used in the trenches during WW1.  The great German scientists were developing the first weapons of mass destruction, the name by which they are now known.  Designed in the name of science to kill enough of the enemy that the war would be over more quickly!

In 1919 saw the formation of the National Socialist German Workers Party who went on to develop far deadlier chemical weapons for killing, particularly against the Jews.  And with one of Hitler’s main scientific advisers, the Nobel Physics Prize Winner Dr Philipp Lenard, an anti-semite and opponent of the Relativity Theory and of everything Einstein had done led scientific research in the development of weaponry. Meanwhile Einstein like all Jews in Berlin in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s was persecuted and he and his wife ultimately fled Germany to the USA.

Germany scientists were the first to develop rocket technology with weapons in the form of the V1 and V2, used extensively to target London which were virtually impossible to  detect or shoot down.  And from as early as 1939 German scientists were already working on the development of the first Atomic bomb, an arms race which the USA won, but only with the assistance of a number of German scientists.  The bomb itself was credited to the head of the US team Professor Oppenheimer who famously said, once he had witnessed the results of his science, “I am death, the destroyer of worlds!”

Meanwhile in Auschwitz Concentration Camp a German doctor by the name of Josef Mengele, in the name of science carried out extensive experimentation on anyone and everyone. It was his leadership that led to the rule of ability to work meant work in the camp. Non ability to work was instant death by gas. But what Mengele did in his research of science was completely horrifying primarily on twins and anyone with disabilities.  But many of the results of his experiments and methods are still studied these days for scientific purposes.

Genius is available on the National Geographic channel.

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