The Conditions of University Research, 1900-1920
During the last quarter of the nineteenth century the founding of Johns Hopkins, the flood tide of influence from German universities, and the academic boom of the nineties all contributed to the fixing of research as an indelible commitment of the leading American universities. But if the universities were dedicated to science, broadly speaking, by the beginning of the twentieth century, it was not yet evident that science was or ought to be entirely beholden to universities. Scientific investigation was undertaken in government bureaus and in semi-independent institutions like the Smithsonian, as well as in the universities. Moreover, it seemed to many that some forms of research could be pursued more effectively outside of academe. The first two decades of the century, then, were an important interval in which to sort out the relative responsibilities of different sectors in the nation's research system. The research universities considerably strengthened the material backing for their research efforts; and, perhaps more important, through a process of trial, error, and imitation they underwent numerous small organizational modifications in order to better accommodate these ambitions. Yet, even by 1920 the research universities could not be assured of being the primary locus of basic science.