Cal Poly Pomona

Physics Seminar

Friday, February 22, 2008

In Sputnik's Shadow: American Science Policy during the Cold War and Beyond

Zuoyue Wang

History Department, Cal Poly Pomona

What did I. I. Rabi, Hans Bethe, Lee DuBridge, and Richard Garwin have in common?  Besides being physicists, they all served on the President's Science Advisory Committee during the Cold War.  Brought to national prominence in 1957 in the wake of the Soviet launching of Sputnik, PSAC helped presidents from Eisenhower to Nixon in making crucial science and technology policy.  Among other achievements, it helped design American space program, advocated for basic research, including high energy physics, pushed for the nuclear test ban treaty, vindicated Rachel Carson's environmental warning, and sounded an early alarm on global warming in 1965.  This talk will use PSAC as a window to look at American science and technology in the postwar period and argue that what was needed then, and what is still needed today, is a sense of technological skepticism, well articulated by PSAC scientists, that there were both potentials and limits to technical solutions of social and political problems. 

Refreshments at 4:00 PM. Seminar begins at 4:10 PM.
Building 8, Room 241
For further information, please call (909) 869-4014

Last modified on January 25, 2008
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