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Title: The International Centre for Theoretical Physics, 1960-1979 : ideology and practice in a United Nations institution for scientific co-operation and Third World development
Author: De Greiff Acevedo, Alexis Hjalmar Alberto
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2001
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In this work the history of the establishment of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste is studied with particular attention to its first director Abdus Salam and the dynamics of international co-operation in science during its foundation and early years. Some aspects of Salam's social, religious and cultural background, as well as his Cambridge training in physics and mathematics are discussed as essential elements in motivating and enabling his career as a scientific diplomat and administrator. It is argued that although Salam managed to provide an effective justification for the creation and existence of the Centre, the majority of the industrialised countries, as well as the Socialist countries, opposed the initiative. The negotiation process for the creation of the ICTP is studied in detail highlighting the crucial role played by Italy and Trieste. It is also argued that institutional instability created by a lack of both financial support and a permanent scientific staff recognised by the scientific elite undermined the status of the institution as well as the work carried out within its walls. Two contrasting images of the Centre prevailed throughout the period studied: for the elite among the scientific community in the industrialised countries, it was a United Nations development institute for the education of Third World scientists, whereas in the developing countries it was perceived as a scientific centre for mainstream research. The fund-raising strategies, based on the cultivation of a network of personal contacts around the world are discussed, focusing on the relation between the ICTP and the Ford Foundation. Finally, the everyday operation of the ICTP as an academic institution is studied. This entails a discussion of the scientific population of the Centre as well as an analysis of the activities carried out there in terms of training and research. The effect of the ICTP on Salam's scientific work and the influence of Salam on some features of the ICTP's scientific practices are also discussed in detail. The history of the ICTP stands as an excellent case study in the contrast that can exist between public rhetoric regarding scientific collaboration between unequal international partners and the reality of that collaboration.
Supervisor: Warwick, Andrew Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available