Introduction: Just Needham to Nixon? On writing the history of “science diplomacy”

Simone Turchetti, Matthew Adamson, Giulia Rispoli, Doubravka Olšáková, Sam Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This introduction examines the growing interest in science diplomacy and the parallel lack of in-depth historical studies on this new concept. In particular, we first show how the recent attention toward science diplomacy has led to a proliferation of hagiographic accounts reflecting the urgency to support its growth rather than truly investigate its ancestry. We then turn to consider how our historical understanding of science diplomacy could be improved, and how this knowledge could equally be of significance to science diplomacy practitioners today. This essay is part of a special issue entitled Science Diplomacy, edited by Giulia Rispoli and Simone Turchetti.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-339
Number of pages17
JournalHistorical Studies in the Natural Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sept 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
29. See the commission website: The first commission conference, “Diplomats in Science Diplomacy,” took place at the Niels Bohr Institute on 19–20 July 2019. The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science has recently organized a conference series on “Science, Technology and Diplomacy during the Cold War and Beyond” (www. 30. Thanks to the funding from the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) in the context of the SPRINT initiative ( 31. See 32. See, in particular, the EU project S4D4C at

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.


  • Decolonization
  • Historiography
  • Imperialism
  • International relations
  • Science diplomacy
  • Scientific diplomacy
  • Soft power

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