In Sputnik's Shadow: The President's Science Advisory Committee and Cold War America

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In today’s world of rapid advancements in science and technology, we need to scrutinize more than ever the historical forces that shape our perceptions of what these new possibilities can and cannot do for social progress. In Sputnik’s Shadow provides a lens to do just that, by tracing the rise and fall of the President’s Science Advisory Committee from its ascendance under Eisenhower in the wake of the Soviet launching of Sputnik to its demise during the Nixon years. Members of this committee shared a strong sense of technological skepticism; they were just as inclined to advise the president about what technology couldn’t do—for national security, space exploration, arms control, and environmental protection—as about what it could do.

Zuoyue Wang examines key turning points during the twentieth century, including the beginning of the Cold War, the debates over nuclear weapons, the Sputnik crisis in 1957, the struggle over the Vietnam War, and the eventual end of the Cold War, showing how the involvement of scientists in executive policymaking evolved over time. Bringing new insights to the intellectual, social, and cultural histories of the era, this book not only depicts the drama of Cold War American science, it gives perspective to how we think about technological advancements today.

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Editorial Reviews

founding director, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLA) - Wolfgang Panofsky

In Sputnik's Shadow represents the most extensive and scholarly effort to document the role of the science advisory system in its difficult function of moderating scientific and technological excesses while at the same time promoting public interest.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813546889
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 9/3/2009
  • Pages: 454
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Zuoyue Wang is a professor of history at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Preface xi

Note to the Reader xv

Abbreviations Used in Text xvii

Introduction 1

Part I Prelude: Before Sputnik

1 American Public Science, 1863-1945 13

2 The Origins of Technological Skepticism, 1945-1950 23

3 Mobilizing Science for the Korean War under Truman, 1950-1952 32

4 Science and the National Security State under Eisenhower, 1952-1957 42

Part II Ike, Sputnik, and the Rise of PSAC

5 Eisenhower, Sputnik, and the Creation of PSAC, 1957 71

6 PSAC and the Launching of NASA, 1957-1960 88

7 Military Technology, 1957-1960 100

8 The Search for a Nuclear Test Ban, 1957-1960 120

9 The Politics of Big Science, 1957-1960 142

10 The Control of Science Policy under Eisenhower, 1957-1960 158

Part III The Politics of Technological Skepticism

11 Science at the New Frontier Under Kennedy, 1960-1963 183

12 Responding to Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, 1962-1963 199

13 Testing the Limits, 1961-1963 219

14 "Scientists for Johnson," 1964 236

15 PSAC, the Vietnam War, and the ABM Debate, 1964-1968 258

16 The Politics of Technological Dissent under Nixon, 1969-1973 287

Epilogue 311

Conclusion 318

Appendix 325

Abbreviations Used in Notes 329

Notes 333

Bibliography 419

Index 443

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