© 2016

Exploring Greenland

Cold War Science and Technology on Ice

  • Ronald E. Doel
  • Kristine C. Harper
  • Matthias Heymann

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiii
  2. Arctic Challenges in the Cold War

  3. Controlling Hostile Environments: Geophysical Research in Greenland

  4. Entanglement and Transformation: Diplomacy and Politics of Science in Greenland

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 193-193
    2. Henry Nielsen, Kristian H. Nielsen
      Pages 195-216
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 265-311

About this book


Using newly declassified documents, this book explores why U.S. military leaders after World War II sought to monitor the far north and understand the physical environment of Greenland, a crucial territory of Denmark. It reveals a fascinating yet little-known realm of Cold War intrigue and a delicate diplomatic duet between a smaller state and a superpower amid a time of intense global pressures. Written by scholars in Denmark and the United States, this book explores many compelling topics. What led to the creation of the U.S. Thule Air Base in Greenland, one of the world’s largest, and why did the U.S. build a nuclear-powered city under Greenland’s ice cap? How did Danish concern about sovereignty shape scientific research programs in Greenland? Also explored here: why did Denmark’s most famous scientist, Inge Lehmann, became involved in research in Greenland, and what international reverberations resulted from the crash of a U.S. B-52 bomber carrying four nuclear weapons near Thule in January 1968?


Cold War comparative history Greenland science and technology diplomacy United States

Editors and affiliations

  • Ronald E. Doel
    • 1
  • Kristine C. Harper
    • 2
  • Matthias Heymann
    • 3
  1. 1.Florida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  2. 2.Florida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  3. 3.Aarhus UniversityAarhusDenmark

About the editors

Ronald E. Doel is an Associate Professor of History at Florida State University, USA. He focuses on the history of recent science and technology.

Kristine C. Harper is an Associate Professor of History at Florida State University. She focuses on the history of recent science and technology.

Matthias Heymann is an Associate Professor of history of science and technology at Aarhus University, Denmark, where he studies the history of the atmospheric sciences. He served as Project Leader of “Exploring Greenland: Science and Technology in Cold War Settings,” funded by the Carlsberg Foundation. 

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Exploring Greenland
  • Book Subtitle Cold War Science and Technology on Ice
  • Editors Ronald E. Doel
    Kristine C. Harper
    Matthias Heymann
  • Series Title Palgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology
  • Series Abbreviated Title Palgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2016
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, New York
  • eBook Packages History History (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-1-137-59687-1
  • Softcover ISBN 978-1-349-72098-9
  • eBook ISBN 978-1-137-59688-8
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XIII, 311
  • Number of Illustrations 12 b/w illustrations, 3 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Modern History
    US History
    History of Science
    Historical Geology
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


“Exploring Greenland demonstrates that the history of scientific research in Greenland after 1945 is one of complex and often surprising interactions between actors from Denmark, the United States and beyond. It will be essential reading for historians with interests in the politics of Cold War science and environmental knowledge, especially in the Arctic, but valuable also for historians of the modern physical sciences more generally.” (Peder Roberts, British Journal for the History of Science, Vol. 50 (1), 2017)