Science and Technology in the Global Cold War

MIT Press
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Investigations of how the global Cold War shaped national scientific and technological practices in fields from biomedicine to rocket science.

The Cold War period saw a dramatic expansion of state-funded science and technology research. Government and military patronage shaped Cold War technoscientific practices, imposing methods that were project oriented, team based, and subject to national-security restrictions. These changes affected not just the arms race and the space race but also research in agriculture, biomedicine, computer science, ecology, meteorology, and other fields. This volume examines science and technology in the context of the Cold War, considering whether the new institutions and institutional arrangements that emerged globally constrained technoscientific inquiry or offered greater opportunities for it.

The contributors find that whatever the particular science, and whatever the political system in which that science was operating, the knowledge that was produced bore some relation to the goals of the nation-state. These goals varied from nation to nation; weapons research was emphasized in the United States and the Soviet Union, for example, but in France and China scientific independence and self-reliance dominated. The contributors also consider to what extent the changes to science and technology practices in this era were produced by the specific politics, anxieties, and aspirations of the Cold War.

Contributors
Elena Aronova, Erik M. Conway, Angela N. H. Creager, David Kaiser, John Krige, Naomi Oreskes, George Reisch, Sigrid Schmalzer, Sonja D. Schmid, Matthew Shindell, Asif A. Siddiqi, Zuoyue Wang, Benjamin Wilson

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About the author

Naomi Oreskes is Professor of the History of Science and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University.

John Krige is Kranzberg Professor in the School of History, Technology, and Sociology at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is the author of American Hegemony and the Postwar Reconstruction of Science in Europe and the coeditor of Science and Technology in the Global Cold War, both published by the MIT Press.

David Kaiser is Germeshausen Professor of the History of Science, Department Head of the Program in Science, Technology, and Society, and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Physics at MIT. He is the author of Drawing Theories Apart: The Dispersion of the Feynman Diagrams in Postwar Physics, and editor of Pedagogy and the Practice of Science: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (MIT Press).

Sonja D. Schmid is Assistant Professor in the Department of Science and Technology in Society at Virginia Tech.

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Additional Information

Publisher
MIT Press
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Published on
Nov 7, 2014
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Pages
472
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ISBN
9780262326117
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Modern / 20th Century
Science / Applied Sciences
Science / History
Technology & Engineering / Research
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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This book presents a cultural perspective on scientific and technological development. As opposed to the "story-lines" of economic innovation and social construction that tend to dominate both the popular and scholarly literature on science, technology and society (or STS), the authors offer an alternative approach, devoting special attention to the role played by social and cultural movements in the making of science and technology. They show how social and cultural movements, from the Renaissance of the late 15th century to the environmental and global justice movements of our time, have provided contexts, or sites, for mixing scientific knowledge and technical skills from different fields and social domains into new combinations, thus fostering what the authors term a "hybrid imagination." Such a hybrid imagination is especially important today, as a way to counter the competitive and commercial "hubris" that is so much taken for granted in contemporary science and engineering discourses and practices with a sense of cooperation and social responsibility. The book portrays the history of science and technology as an underlying tension between hubris -- literally the ambition to "play god" on the part of many a scientist and engineer and neglect the consequences - and a hybrid imagination, connecting scientific "facts" and technological "artifacts" with cultural understanding. The book concludes with chapters on the recent transformations in the modes of scientific and technological production since the Second World War and the contending approaches to "greening" science and technology in relation to the global quest for sustainable development. The book is based on a series of lectures that were given by Andrew Jamison at the Technical University of Denmark in 2010 and draws on the authors' many years of experience in teaching non-technical, or contextual knowledge, to science and engineering students. The book has been written as part of the Program of Research on Opportunities and Challenges in Engineering Education in Denmark (PROCEED) supported by the Danish Strategic Research Council from 2010 to 2013. Table of Contents: Introduction / Perceptions of Science and Technology / Where Did Science and Technology Come From? / Science, Technology and Industrialization / Science, Technology and Modernization / Science, Technology and Globalization / The Greening of Science and Technology
From the bestselling author of The Knowledge Web come fifty mesmerizing journeys into the history of technology, each following a chain of consequential events that ends precisely where it began. Whether exploring electromagnetic fields, the origin of hot chocolate, or DNA fingerprinting, these essays -- which originally appeared in James Burke's popular Scientific American column -- all illustrate the serendipitous and surprisingly circular nature of change.

In "Room with (Half) a View," for instance, Burke muses about the partly obscured railway bridge outside his home on the Thames. Thinking of the bridge engineer, who also built the steamship that laid the first transatlantic telegraph cable, causes him to recall Samuel Morse; which, in turn, conjures up Morse's neighbor, firearms inventor Sam Colt, and his rival, Remington. One dizzying connection after another leads to Karl Marx's daughter, who attended Socialist meetings with a trombonist named Gustav Holst, who once lived in the very house that blocks Burke's view of the bridge on the Thames. Burke's essays all evolve in this organic manner, highlighting the interconnectedness of seemingly unrelated events and innovations. Romantic poetry leads to brandy distillation; tonic water connects through Leibniz to the first explorers to reach the North Pole.

Witty, instructive, and endlessly entertaining, Circles expands on the trademark style that has captivated James Burke fans for years. This unique collection is sure to stimulate and delight history buffs, technophiles, and anyone else with a healthy intellectual curiosity.
In 1945, the United States was not only the strongest economic and military power in the world; it was also the world's leader in science and technology. In American Hegemony and the Postwar Reconstruction of Science in Europe, John Krige describes the efforts of influential figures in the United States to model postwar scientific practices and institutions in Western Europe on those in America. They mobilized political and financial support to promote not just America's scientific and technological agendas in Western Europe but its Cold War political and ideological agendas as well.

Drawing on the work of diplomatic and cultural historians, Krige argues that this attempt at scientific dominance by the United States can be seen as a form of "consensual hegemony," involving the collaboration of influential local elites who shared American values. He uses this notion to analyze a series of case studies that describe how the U.S. administration, senior officers in the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, the NATO Science Committee, and influential members of the scientific establishment—notably Isidor I. Rabi of Columbia University and Vannevar Bush of MIT—tried to Americanize scientific practices in such fields as physics, molecular biology, and operations research. He details U.S. support for institutions including CERN, the Niels Bohr Institute, the French CNRS and its laboratories at Gif near Paris, and the never-established "European MIT." Krige's study shows how consensual hegemony in science not only served the interests of postwar European reconstruction but became another way of maintaining American leadership and "making the world safe for democracy."

For most of the second half of the twentieth century, the United States and its allies competed with a hostile Soviet Union in almost every way imaginable except open military engagement. The Cold War placed two opposite conceptions of the good society before the uncommitted world and history itself, and science figured prominently in the picture. Competing with the Soviets offers a short, accessible introduction to the special role that science and technology played in maintaining state power during the Cold War, from the atomic bomb to the Human Genome Project.

The high-tech machinery of nuclear physics and the space race are at the center of this story, but Audra J. Wolfe also examines the surrogate battlefield of scientific achievement in such diverse fields as urban planning, biology, and economics; explains how defense-driven federal investments created vast laboratories and research programs; and shows how unfamiliar worries about national security and corrosive questions of loyalty crept into the supposedly objective scholarly enterprise.

Based on the assumption that scientists are participants in the culture in which they live, Competing with the Soviets looks beyond the debate about whether military influence distorted science in the Cold War. Scientists’ choices and opportunities have always been shaped by the ideological assumptions, political mandates, and social mores of their times. The idea that American science ever operated in a free zone outside of politics is, Wolfe argues, itself a legacy of the ideological Cold War that held up American science, and scientists, as beacons of freedom in contrast to their peers in the Soviet Union. Arranged chronologically and thematically, the book highlights how ideas about the appropriate relationships among science, scientists, and the state changed over time.

-- Michael D. Gordin, Princeton University
How America used its technological leadership in the 1950s and the 1960s to foster European collaboration and curb nuclear proliferation, with varying degrees of success.

In the 1950s and the 1960s, U.S. administrations were determined to prevent Western European countries from developing independent national nuclear weapons programs. To do so, the United States attempted to use its technological pre-eminence as a tool of “soft power” to steer Western European technological choices toward the peaceful uses of the atom and of space, encouraging options that fostered collaboration, promoted nonproliferation, and defused challenges to U.S. technological superiority. In Sharing Knowledge, Shaping Europe, John Krige describes these efforts and the varying degrees of success they achieved.

Krige explains that the pursuit of scientific and technological leadership, galvanized by America's Cold War competition with the Soviet Union, was also used for techno-political collaboration with major allies. He examines a series of multinational arrangements involving shared technological platforms and aimed at curbing nuclear proliferation, and he describes the roles of the Department of State, the Atomic Energy Commission, and NASA. To their dismay, these agencies discovered that the use of technology as an instrument of soft power was seriously circumscribed, by internal divisions within successive administrations and by external opposition from European countries. It was successful, Krige argues, only when technological leadership was embedded in a web of supportive “harder” power structures.

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