This essay is reproduced here as it appeared in the print edition of the original Science for the People magazine. These web-formatted archives are preserved complete with typographical errors and available for reference and educational and activist use. Scanned PDFs of the back issues can be browsed by headline at the website for the 2014 SftP conference held at UMass-Amherst. For more information or to support the project, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Bobby Seale at Cold Spring Harbor
by Rita Arditti
Cold Spring Harbor laboratory is the sanctum-sanctorum of Molecular Biology. Its annual symposium from June 4 to June 11, 1970, attracted over 300 scientists (needless to say, about 80% males) from all over the country and top scientists from abroad. In the words of its director, Nobel Prize winner James D. Watson, famous also for his literary effort The Double Helix, the laboratory is an “institution where graduate students are as welcome as their professors, where bad science is so labelled, and good science encouraged with every resource at our disposal.” The resources involve “…100 acres of quietly beautiful shore front located near two major airports and without the distraction of good or bad films, drug stores carrying paper backs or bars with TV if not topless waitresses.” (1969, C.S.H. Annual Report. Notice the male chauvinist slip, waitresses are in the same category as films, books or TV’s.)
A member of Science for the People decided to distract those attending the symposium with two films from Newsreel, a radical filmmakers’ organization. One rainy afternoon we showed “People’s Park”, a film about people building their park in Berkeley in the spring of 1969 and the brutal repression that followed this threat to the concept of private property, and an “Interview with Bobby Seale”, about the Black Panther Party, its leaders and its programs.
About a third of the symposium participants came to our session, donated money to pay for the rental of the films and stayed to talk about Dr. Curtis Powell (see p. 4, “Letters from a Political Prisoner”) and the group Science for the People. After we broke the ice, there was a healthy discussion covering topics as varied as the anti-war movement, what can scientists do, pollution, radical courses, etc. A friend whispered in my ear, “It’s incredible to be talking like this in Cold Spring Harbor!”
What this tells us is that the idyllic vision of undistracted scientists, working peacefully in their Olympus, cut off from the social and political reality of America today, is beginning to lose its effectiveness. A sense of malaise is slowly spreading. Scientists are people and my feeling is that more and more young minds will begin to question the established order and the set of priorities that sets them so apart from the rest of the people.