[Marxism] Popularising Science: The Life and Work of J.B.S. Halda ne

Jim Farmelant farmelantj at juno.com
Wed May 23 17:17:08 MDT 2018

There is a lot that can be said about J. B. S. Haldane as a scientist, Marxist thinker, and political activist.  He was one of several young British scientists who attended the Second International Congress of the History of Science in London in 1931. which was also attended by a delegation of Soviet scientists and scholars, accompanied by Nikolai Bukharin  Among the Soviets who came to that conference was Boris Hessen,- a Soviet physicist and historian and philosopher of science, whose groundbreaking paper, "The Social and Economic Roots of Newton’s Principia" (https://rtraba.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/v1_hessen.pdf) made quite a splash and would have a profound impact on the emergence of the history of science as a distinct academic discipline in the West. Hessen's work, in particular, made a strong impression on J. B. S. Haldane, just as it did on some other British scientists like J.D. Bernal, Lancelot Hogben, and Joseph Needham, all of whom would go on to achieve eminence in their respective scientific specialties while also becoming very influential writers concerning the history and social functions of science, from a Marxist perspective.

Gary Werskey's book, The Visible College, gives good coverage of these British Marxist scientists, including Haldane. And Helena Sheehan provides a good discussion of these people in her recently reissued book, Marxism and the Philosophy of Science: A Critical History.  

Concerning Haldane, it is interesting to note that he was one of the CPGB's most popular speakers and writers. His column in The Daily Worker was extremely popular and it is said that a great many people, who were not at all sympathetic to the politics of that paper, nevertheless, took out subscriptions to it just so they could read his column.

Jim Farmelant
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