Centre for Studies in Science Policy
School of Social Sciences
Special Lecture Series
"Invisible Waves: Use of Wireless in War and Empire in Early 20th Century"
by Dr. Medha Saxena
Friday, 27th February 2015
Abstract: Wireless started to interest the British colonial state in the late nineteenth century. It captured the imagination of the imperial powers even more dramatically during the Russo-Japanese war in 1904-05. Wireless had certain inherent characteristics that made its use expedient but devious. Since it was air borne it was considered useful for establishing communication over sea and recommended itself for use during war. However, wireless was an ambiguous weapon as it encroached upon both sovereign spaces and international conventions of war. It challenged the limits of politically carved territories simply by being 'up in the air'. There was constant experimentation with new wireless systems across the world but their reliability and efficiency remained questionable. International commercial concerns, imperial interests and scientific innovation converged with wireless as they did for other communication technologies. Any company, irrespective of its place of origin, could cater to the universal imperial market. Hence, the wireless experienced an international effort to regulate and facilitate its uses. To a large extent these early manipulations tried to limit rather than enhance the various strengths of the wireless. This presentation analyses the dilemmas posed due to induction of wireless in naval warfare and in gathering news from the battle front for the first time. It will also look at the context of military, scientific and commercial developments in the international arena that shaped these conflicts with reference to wireless.
About Speaker: Medha Saxena has taught as an Assistant Professor at Jesus & Mary College, University of Delhi. She has been a PhD Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in New Delhi. After doing her BA in history from St. Stephens College, University of Delhi, she specialized in modern Indian history for her MA at Centre for Historical Studies, JNU. She received a doctorate from CHS in 2013. Her work has been trying to evaluate the centrality of communication technologies such as telephone and wireless to the working of the colonial state. Currently she is engaged in preparing her thesis for publication.