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For Better or for Worse

For Better or for Worse: The Marriage of Science and Government in the United States

Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    For Better or for Worse
    Book Description:

    The development of an American science establishment -- today an amalgam of scientists, engineers, universities, industrial laboratories, and federal science agencies -- began early in the twentieth century when the federal government began to invest in a national scientific infrastructure. During World War II this investment swelled to colossal proportions. At present, the yearly federal investment in basic science and technology amounts to about thirty-five billion dollars. How did this complex marriage between science and government occur? How will increasing economic pressures affect its future?

    In this engaging overview of the science establishment and its relationship with the federal government, renowned physicist Alfred K. Mann details the reasons behind the creation of the four nonmilitary federal science agencies that are responsible for the bulk of this budget and are the principal supporters of scientific research and technology in American universities. Looking into each agency, he elucidates the ways in which decisions were made, whose interests were at stake, and the resulting discoveries, mishaps, and bureaucratic mazes that were constructed in the name of research.

    Mann interweaves fascinating stories that grew out of the scientific enterprise:

    • the allies' invention during World War II of the proximity fuse and its tremendous battlefield success,

    • the first use of blood plasma in World War II field hospitals,

    • the invention of radar,

    • strategic policies of the Cold War,

    • the double helix of DNA,

    • space explorations and the space missions,

    • modern global positioning systems (GPS),

    • satellite surveillance, and

    • recent declassification of covert operations.

    Charting the origins and operations of a remarkable collaboration, For Better or for Worse encompasses many of the key scientific discoveries of our time and offers a renewed vision of the future direction of the United States science establishment.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50566-6
    Subjects: Political Science, History of Science & Technology, General Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    When Franklin Delano Roosevelt and a Democratic congress won control of the federal government of the United States in 1932, a controversial new view of how federal influence and money might be used to change American society was also inaugurated. The active role of the federal government in pursuit of that view led to the creation of many federal agencies in the quarter century between 1932 and 1957 and brought about a very different nation than had existed previously. With the approval of the American public, that view is still firmly in place sixty-five years later, but controversy continues over...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Love at First Sight: 1939–1945
    (pp. 7-42)

    The Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) was the product of the leaders of the U.S. scientific community, among them Vannevar Bush, former vice president of engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, head of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and director of the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC). Bush’s principal colleagues were James B. Conant, a distinguished chemist and president of Harvard University; Frank B. Jewett, director of Bell Telephone Laboratories and president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences; and Karl T. Compton, president of MIT. A. N. Richards, vice president for medical affairs of the University...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Courtship: 1945–1955
    (pp. 43-98)

    The end of the war brought joy, relief, and new challenges to the United States. The nation’s wartime accomplishments were harbingers of a bright future, and its wealth was at last free to be invested in that future. But the challenges were many, and the ways to meet them unclear. The United States was in a position similar to that of the winner of a very big lottery prize. A new way of life lay within its grasp if—and it was a big if—the unfamiliar new wealth could be safeguarded and invested wisely.

    The challenges in science and...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Marriage: 1955–1965
    (pp. 99-130)

    The 1950s were marked by the cold war, a period of tenuous nonaggression between the world’s superpowers: the USA and the USSR. At its core was the mutual fear that either side could use its growing arsenal of atomic weaponry to destroy much of civilization. Early in that period, in 1950, the tension in Korea grew into a localized “hot war” that pitted the United States and the Republic of Korea against Soviet-armed North Korea and the Peoples Republic of China. The Korean War was a conventional war; no atomic or thermonuclear devices were deployed. However, many American lives were...

  10. CHAPTER 5 End of the Honeymoon: 1965–1975
    (pp. 131-150)

    By 1965 the science establishment consisted of twenty federal funding agencies, fifty or so private and state universities with large research faculties and graduate student bodies, and several industrial laboratories also pursuing basic research. Laboratory facilities in many universities, neglected during WWII, had been remodeled by federal grants after the war. Facilities that were beyond the financial capability of a single university—laboratories with new, specialized apparatus such as particle accelerators, astronomical observatories with advanced technology telescopes, and hospitals with elaborate diagnostic equipment—were built and subsidized annually to provide U.S. and foreign scientists with modern research equipment. In some...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Estrangement and Reconciliation: 1975–1985
    (pp. 151-178)

    In retrospect, it is easy to see that the close rapport between the federal government and the science community would ebb away naturally over the course of time. That rapport emerged from WWII and was sustained by the cold war and the peacetime contributions of science and technology to the quality of American life. But other national cares and worries and a natural tendency to take the science establishment for granted brought about the separation. The reinstatement of a science advisory structure in the executive office of the Ford administration was reassuring, as was President Carter’s appointment of a well-respected...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Golden Anniversary: 1985–1995
    (pp. 179-202)

    As the golden anniversary of the marriage approached, the compact between the science establishment and the federal government remained intact and as felicitous as long-term compacts between the government and its citizens are likely to be. During those fifty years, the U.S. experience also helped to define science support in industrially developed nations everywhere. The essential feature adopted by the United States and many other nations was support of peer-reviewed proposals for basic research by individual scientists.

    By 1995 the U.S. science agencies had matured in their role as intermediaries between the government—the Congress and the president—and scientists....

  13. CHAPTER 8 The Future: 2000 and More
    (pp. 203-216)

    The science establishment that emerged in the United States during the past half century is a phenomenon in its own right: a unique partnership of government and private institutions, of administrators and scientists and engineers, brooded over by the Congress, which finances it, and pretty much allowed to go its own way under the benign neglect of the White House.

    Much of the success of the enterprise, particularly in the early years, was due to the informal, personal way in which the federal science agencies conducted their business. The agencies were staffed by administrators who had had careers as scientists...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 217-220)
  15. References
    (pp. 221-224)
  16. Index
    (pp. 225-246)