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The Ethics of Science: Leonardo Sciascia and the Majorana Case

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Abstract:

The enquiry into the unexplained disappearance in 1938 of the Sicilian physicist Ettore Majorana takes the form of an inchiesta, a quasi‐historical genre devised by Leonardo Sciascia, whose nature is subjected to analysis. Sciascia acknowledged a twin debt to Voltaire and Pirandello, but the Voltairean element prevailed in ethical enquiries. The scientist's disappearance, motivated in Sciascia's view by his apprehensions over the direction of nuclear physics, becomes a metaphor for general discussion of the moral responsibility of scientists for their discoveries, a debate carried on by contrasting the conduct of Werner Heisenberg in obstructing Hitler's atomic programme and that of J. Robert Oppenheimer in leading the research which produced the Hiroshima bomb.

Keywords: Ettore Majorana; Hiroshima; J. Robert Oppenheimer; Leonardo Sciascia; Pirandello; Voltaire; Werner Heisenberg; inchiesta; moral responsibility of scientists

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Strathclyde

Publication date: October 1, 2007

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