American Science in an Age of Anxiety: Scientists, Anticommunism, and the Cold War

American Science in an Age of Anxiety: Scientists, Anticommunism, and the Cold War

by Jessica Wang

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No professional group in the United States benefited more from World War II than the scientific community. After the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, scientists enjoyed unprecedented public visibility and political influence as a new elite whose expertise now seemed critical to America's future. But as the United States grew committed to Cold War conflict with the Soviet Union and the ideology of anticommunism came to dominate American politics, scientists faced an increasingly vigorous regimen of security and loyalty clearances as well as the threat of intrusive investigations by the notorious House Committee on Un-American Activities and other government bodies.
This book is the first major study of American scientists' encounters with Cold War anticommunism in the decade after World War II. By examining cases of individual scientists subjected to loyalty and security investigations, the organizational response of the scientific community to political attacks, and the relationships between Cold War ideology and postwar science policy, Jessica Wang demonstrates the stifling effects of anticommunist ideology on the politics of science. She exposes the deep divisions over the Cold War within the scientific community and provides a complex story of hard choices, a community in crisis, and roads not taken.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807867105
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 11/09/2000
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 392
Lexile: 1610L (what's this?)
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Jessica Wang is assistant professor of U.S. history at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments Abbreviations Introduction
1. Competing Political Visions for Postwar Science: Scientists and Science Legislation, 1945-1947
2. Fear, Suspicion, and the Surveillance State: The FAS, HUAC, and the FBI, 1945-1948
3. Individual Encounters I: Scientists and AEC Security, 1946-1948
4. Individual Encounters II: Scientists and HUAC, 1946-1948
5. Negotiating Security: The FAS, the AEC, and the JCAE, 1947-1948
6. Responses: Scientists' Associations and Civil Liberties, 1948-1949
7. Drawing the Line: The AEC, the National Academy of Sciences, and the AEC Fellowship Program, 1948-1950
8. Consequences: The 1950s and Beyond Conclusion Notes Select Bibliography Index

Illustrations John A. Simpson delivering congressional testimony, December 13, 1945
H. H. Goldsmith, Irving Kaplan, Lyle B. Borst, and W. M. Woodward, November 11, 1945
Vannevar Bush, 1943
Harold C. Urey with Thorfin R. Hogness and Arthur Jaffe, December 6, 1949
A typical selection from the FBI's file on the FAS J. Edgar Hoover, 1948
Eugene Rabinowitch, early 1950s Harlow Shapley as co-chairman of the Progressive Citizens of America, March 31, 1947
Edward U. Condon lectures Senators Brien McMahon and Bourke B. Hickenlooper, November 8, 1945
J. Parnell Thomas, April 22, 1948
Cartoonist F. O. Alexander's rendition of events at Oak Ridge, May 1948
A. N. Richards, 1947
Maurice Visscher, 1947
Detlev Bronk, 1948
Senator Hickenlooper's "incredible mismanagement" hearings, June 6, 1949
Harry Grundfest testifying before Senator McCarthy's Internal Security Subcommittee, November 25, 1953

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

A book that offers profound insight into U.S. science—as well as national and world security— today.—Chemical and Engineering News

A richly textured book that makes a valuable contribution to the literature of the period and sheds light on a fascinating and disturbing aspect of the Cold War.—Canadian Journal of History

The national security state that emerged at the end of World War II needed scientists to do its bidding. Far more insightfully and comprehensively than previous scholarship, Jessica Wang's American Science in an Age of Anxiety tells the fascinating, though troubling, story of scientists' resistance and ultimate accommodation to the state under the pressure of nationalistic fervor and red-baiting terror and the promise of unprecedented funding in the early Cold War. It is essential and rewarding reading for anyone wanting to understand the forces that shaped Cold War science, politics, and culture in the United States.—Peter J. Kuznick, author of Beyond the Laboratory: Scientists as Political Activists in 1930s America

This book by a brilliant young historian is a breakthrough in our understanding not only of American science and politics during the Cold War, but of the terribly destructive effects zealots have on a nation's best interests—and especially on the decent people and communities who believe in reason and tolerance.—Walter LaFeber, Cornell University

[Wang's book is] one of the most important and significant [books] to appear in the last decade in the literature on the history of 20th-century science. . . . A well-researched, judiciously argued and subtle history of the period.—Physics World

Numerous books have dealt with the deleterious effects the post-World War II 'red scare' had on American life, but American Science in an Age of Anxiety is the first to provide a comprehensive history of how it affected scientists and science policy. The book presents a stark, often disturbing picture of lives ruined and principles compromised. . . . A first-rate work of scholarship. . . . [and] a lively, well-written account. It will appeal to scientists and others interested in the history of science and public policy.—The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

This nuanced, extensively documented study thus adds significantly to our understanding of the shaping of contemporary American science and culture as it details the political processes and encounters within which contemporary American science emerged. . . . A major contribution.—American Historical Review

The powerful implications of [her] arguments make Wang's book essential reading for historians of science and for students of Cold War politics.—American Studies

Informative and eye-opening. . . . Wang's probing account of these episodes surpasses most others, since she draws on numerous public and private sources, including FBI records she obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Her book is a graphic and disturbing analysis of how scientists became caught up in the octopus-like obsession with loyalty and security that pervaded American life in the early years of the Cold War.—Nature

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