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War and Peace: Chemistry's Contribution

nerve gas attack

10 Jan 2014

Chemistry has been central to warfare and never more so following the industrialization of war in the twentieth century with the improvement of explosives and the development of chemical weapons.

Prof Peter Atkins will be presenting the SCI/RSC Evening Lecture titled War and Peace: Chemistry's Contribution on 19 February.

A dimension of the talk that is currently highly topical is the consideration of what happens when diplomatic prohibition fails and destruction must ensue: what are the issues? Can ambiguity lurk there in aspects of their control and destruction?

In his talk, Prof Atkins will explore positive contributions that spring from even the most horrible weapons such as explosives and chemical weapons, and if there are beneficial consequences from their development that might go some way towards mitigating their development if not their deployment.

So why, for instance, is a chemical weapon regarded with greater abhorrence than a bomb or a bullet and can work to improve them be justified? A variety of aspects of chemical involvement will also be explored, including ethical considerations, and the development of munitions from ancient gunpowder to modern high explosives and of nerve agents from curare to sarin.

About Prof Peter Atkins
Prof Peter Atkins was professor of physical chemistry at the University of Oxford and a fellow of Lincoln College until his retirement in 2007. He is the author of about 70 books, including his Physical Chemistry, now about to appear in its tenth edition and used throughout the world. He has also written a number of books on science and philosophical issues for the general public, including Galileo’s Finger: the Ten Great Ideas of Science, The Periodic Kingdom, and, most recently, What is Chemistry?.  He has been a visiting professor in France, Japan, China, Israel, and New Zealand, and continues to write and lecture around the world.

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