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

By Alfred K. Mann | Go to book overview

Preface

Early in the twentieth century, when funds from wealthy individuals and private foundations ceased to meet the needs of modern science in the United States, the federal government began to invest in a national scientific infrastructure. This was done tentatively at first and then in World War II on the largest scale imaginable. The investment was so successful that it virtually demanded to be continued when peace came. So began the development of an American science establishment, today an amalgam of scientists, engineers, universities, industrial laboratories, and federal science agencies. The establishment is a remarkable achievement in its own right, distinct from the science and technology it has helped to produce but an integral part of them. It has been held together for a half century by a federal government determined to foster the benefits of science and technology for its citizens. The government has achieved this using public money to underwrite the cost of the science establishment despite the intrinsic fluidity and ungovernable nature of both the science and the establishment.

By chance, my career coincided with the emergence and growth of the science establishment. In the words of Dean Acheson, I was “present at the

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