The British Interplanetary Society before the Second World War
This chapter examines a little-known scientific organisation made up of scientific outsiders, the British Interplanetary Society. It is considered within the Foucauldian frame of the heterotopia, a space in which normal rules are suspended or subverted in order to create a utopian alternative. In this instance of scientific governance that space was provided by scientifiction. The content of the stories offered different ways of thinking about science, but perhaps even more importantly the material and social reality of their printing and distribution instantiated a different kind of scientific organisation in itself. The BIS was both an attempt to organise science differently – a space for different membership, aims and rules – and also a construction of this alterity through its interlocution with utopian accounts of space itself.
Scientific Governance in Britain, 1914-79 provides a ‘big picture’ account of science in modern Britain. It charts the changing contours of science and illuminates its role in governing the nation. The twentieth century saw a dramatic increase in publicly funded research and the number of scientific advisors across government. At the same time science was evoked in the pursuit of the effective and rational management of people and resources – of making policies and achieving Britain’s goals. Spanning fifteen essays, this book examines the connected histories of how science itself was governed, and how it was used in governance. Individually these contributions reveal a breadth of perspectives on the relationship between science and governance. Taken together they connect the many people involved in, and affected by, science in twentieth-century Britain. Essays on the governance of science include topics such as the establishment and functioning of new governmental departments and agencies, as well as the (sometimes uncertain) responses of pre-existing scientific bodies, notably the Royal Society. Operational Research features prominently as the model for later structures. Topics treated under the theme of governance by science include specific elaborations of the sometimes vague-seeming rhetoric of science’s rational fitness as a modus operandi. More concrete ambitions for science are explored in relation to broadcasting, psychology, sociology and education. The essays in this volume combine the latest research on twentieth-century British science with insightful discussion of what it meant to govern – and govern with – science.