Gorter and the Americanization of Dutch Science: To what extent was Dutch science Americanized and how did this process manifest in Gorter’s career?
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After the Second World War, Dutch scientists had to cope with an enormous knowledge gap between them and American scientists; hence transformations in the Dutch science system were necessary to remain part of the international scientific community. In this thesis, I surveyed whether this process of transforming developed in such a way that it followed American standards: to what extent was Dutch science Americanized? For this purpose, I focused on several aspects of this process – such as the adoption of reorganizational structures in science and education, or the embracement of American norms and values – by examining the career of experimental physicist C.J. Gorter and the institute he worked for: Leiden University. Both appeared to orient immediately towards America: many proposals for transformations were based on the American model. However, the universities’ preservation of their old dogma’s, and the conservative attitude of Dutch professors determined whether suggestions were actually implemented or not. Recommendations regarding reorganizations, such as an increase in the number of professors, often opposed the old principles, and hence were ignored. On the other hand, suggestions that were in line with the existing principles were realized, such as an extraordinary focus on fundamental science and the creation of a students’ community. Furthermore, American norms and values, such as the democratic attitude, were adopted only within the board of the prevailing conservatism. Consequently, the process of Americanization of Dutch science was most clearly visible in new organizations, in which new principles needed to be formulated. The existing institutes with a fixed regime, such as Dutch universities, got into a transitional phase in which new ideas were proposed – often in accordance with American examples – but were not implemented yet, due to the fact that its professors held on to the prevailing, and occasionally old-fashioned principles.