Jenny Beckman: "Tarzan of the Sciences: The Royal Swedish Academy in the Information Jungle, c. 1970"

  • Date: –15:00
  • Location: Engelska parken 6-3025 (Rausing Room)
  • Organiser: Department of History of Science and Ideas
  • Contact person: Julia Nordblad
  • Seminarium

Higher Seminar in the History of Science and Ideas

Research presentation by Jenny Beckman, Uppsala University.


In this paper, I will discuss how the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences attempted to transform itself from an unofficial government agency into what might be called a scientific lobby organization in the years around 1970. On an organizational level, this transformation manifested in the establishment of new positions at the Academy: an international secretary was hired in 1970 and an information secretary in 1973, both soon followed by their own departments and staff. On a more existential level, it involved redefining its role in Swedish scientific research and administration, in relation to other institutions and to its own past.

In its search for a new role, the Academy reorganized its communication with the public, with government agencies, and with other scientific organizations. It intensified its output of press releases, conference proceedings, and newsletters; it formalized its work with government referrals and opinion pieces; it endeavoured to join and establish international organizations and collaborative networks. The Academy’s ability to speak about science, for science, and not least, for scientific institutions, changed forms.

Image from Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan the Untamed (1920). Artist: James Allen St. John. Image source: Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).