Dr. Juan-Andres Leon


Juan-Andres Leon trained as a physicist and a historian before doing a PhD in the History of Science. Parallel to his academic trajectory, he has pursued a museum career that focuses on modern scientific instrumentation and computing. His work  looks at the role of science as world transforming practice, political ideology and personal habitus. In his dissertation, "Citizens of the Chemical Complex" he explored the world of science philanthropy of Imperial and Weimar Germany and its impact in the applied sciences, physics, mathematics and astronomy.

Leon's work lies at the intersection of social and environmental history, and repeatedly focuses on the transition from personal and philanthropic support networks towards national science organizations such as the Max Planck Society, as well as multinational scientific initiatives such as Atoms for Peace, CERN, and a multitude of astronomical observatories.

Throughout his work, geography (water, elevation, topographical features, infrastructure and political boundaries) plays a leading analytical role.

At the GMPG, he is researching the West German participation in the construction of large astronomical observatories in foreign countries in the second half of the 20th century, a story in which geographical necessity tested the boundaries between scientific autonomy and the democratic responsibility of scientists.

Selected Publications

Leon, Juan-Andres: "The Fight for Brooklyn’s Coolest Superfund Site." Distillations Magazine Winter 4/1 (2015).

Leon, Juan-Andres: Citizens of the Chemical Complex. Technical Expertise and Science Philanthropy in Imperial and Weimar Germany. PhD Thesis, Harvard University 2013, Book Publication in Progress.

Leon, Juan-Andres: Los Inicios del Programa Nuclear Colombiano, 1955–1965: Diplomacia y Ayuda Internacional en la Formación de una Comunidad Científica en la Era del Desarrollo. Documentos CESO 68. Bogotá: Universidad de los Andes 2004.

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06/09/2016 – 08/09/2016
Workshop "Opening New Windows on the Cosmos: Astrophysics and Astronomy in the History of the Max Planck Society"
MPG Observatories in Spain, Chile and Southern Africa

Research Colloquium, Iberoamerican Institute, Berlin
El conflicto entre la autonomía científica y la democracia en Alemania Occidental durante la construcción de sus observatorios astronómicos en España, Sudáfrica y Chile

Workshop "Astrophysics and Astronomy in the History of the Max Planck Society", Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin
Tackling the Curse of Geography: Optical Astronomy and the Max Planck Society during the Cold War

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