Cowan ch. 11

Science, Technology, and War

The Civil War was significantly impacted by technology, particularly railroads and more accurate guns.  Maxim's invention of the first machine gun grew out of civil war experiments.  Yet when World War I came the U.S. found itself behind in military technology.

World War I started in 1914, US entered April 1917, Armistice Dec. 1918.

 French tank
Poison gas

German signal corps soldiers placing their carrier pigeons in a shelter during a gas attack

The Navy also decided it needed to encourage research

  World War I British Submarine
Meanwhile scientists felt unappreciated and the National Academy of Sciences (an honorary society created during the Civil War) established the National Research Council in 1916 to show what science could contribute So then what was the impact of war on technology and science?

  Curtis JN-4 Aircraft, World War I
Consider aviation as another example.  The Wright brothers had a terrible time interesting anyone in their success--the U.S. military did not purchase its first plane until 1909

 French Spad WWI fighter--National Air and Space Museum

there was a need for research also, or at least coordination, and it almost instantly outgrew the resources of amateurs like the Wright brothers or even the small firms that were building aircraft.
NACA's first employee

 NACA's first wind tunnel

detail from Diego Rivera mural at Detroit Institute of Art

At the end of World War I, the airplane had proved itself as a weapon but military aircraft weren't of much practical use

 Ford Trimotor, National Air and Space Museum

 Sikorsky's first helicopter
The airplane became a symbol of how much the world had changed

World War II started in 1939, the US entered in the fall of 1941

 radar set on airplane

 antiaircraft fire
The Proximity Fuse
The Atomic Bomb:
German scientists many of the key discoveries in nuclear physics that made nuclear weapons possible, leading to fear in the U.S. that the Germans would build an atomic bomb.

  Lise Meitner
Difficulties setting up such a big, uncertain research and development project: the Manhattan Project

 K-25 gaseous diffusion plant at Oak Ridge

 Bombs used in Japan
 The decision to drop the bomb ( good links on the decision )

 bomb damage in Hiroshima

Does it fit the theory of just war?
The scientists tried to prevent an arms race from developing.  Why did they feel so strongly, and did they have any hope of success?

People were frightened by the bomb and began to question the idea that technological progress was always good

World War II changed the relationship between science and government

Scientists involved in the war wanted several things after the war:  Continued military funding, a civilian Atomic Energy agency, and civilian funding source for basic scientific research  

Lessons Learned from WWII:

Vannevar Bush

Military support for science Impact of military funding
Federal Funding for Basic Scientific Research
Millions of Dollars (not adjusted for Inflation)
year Dept. Defense AEC/DOE NSF total
1952 31 34 1 121
1955 20 42 10 130
1960 168 104 68 590
1965 263 258 171 1,435
1970 317 287 245 1,926
1975 300 313 486 2,588
1980 540 523 815 4,674
1985 861 943 1,262 7,819
1990 948 1,505 1,586 11,286
1995 1,264 1,634 1,973 13,895
The totals are so much larger than the amounts for specific agencies because there is considerable basic research done by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and because NASA expenditures are counted mostly as basic research.
 (source: Table A)

National Science Foundation

Federal Funding for Research and Development
Millions of Dollars (not adjusted for inflation)
 (source: Table B)

year Dept. of Ag. Dept Defense AEC/DOE NASA NSF Total 
1951 55 1,123 158 45 .15 1,522
1955 72 1,529 253 43 10 2,045
1960 126 5,712 762 369 75 7,552
1965 225 6,797 1,241 4,952 187 14,614
1970 281 7,360 1,346 3,800 289 15,339
1975 420 9,012 2,047 3,064 595 19,039
1980 688 13,981 4,753 3,234 882 29,830
1985 943 26,792 4,966 3,327 1,346 48,360
1990 1,108 37,268 5,631 6,533 1,689 63,559
1995 1,380 34,362 6,145 9,015 2,149 68,755

The Cold War was the primary justification for all this military spending on science and technology:


 planes lined up for Berlin airlift, US Air Force Photo

The Nuclear Arms Race

Missiles and Satellites

 Titan ICBM
If it was possible for human beings to fly, then why not fly to the moon? 

The key to turning this enthusiasm into a serious space program turned out to be government support, and the Germans were the first to get it.

 Society for Space Travel

 captured V-2 being prepared for launch
U.S. military interest was at first spotty.
 Atlas ICBM
Reconnaissance was a big need:

 U-2, US Air Force photo
With all the rocket building, satellites were so clearly in the works that they were made part of the plans for the International Geophysical Year, a cooperative research effort in 1957-1958

 Sputnik 1, National Air and Space Museum
Enough work had been done on a project called Man-in-Space-Soonest by the founding of NASA (Oct.  1, 1958) so that a consensus had been reached:

 Mercury-Redstone 1, NASA photo
Once you have put people in space, what do you do with them? the key shift, however, came in Kennedy's political situation  
What caused the end of the cold war?

Transformation of Soviet Union

The Cold War ends:
Impact of the End of the Cold War on the U.S. Department of Defense

This page written and copyright Pamela E. Mack
HIST 122
last updated 10/24/07