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Science and Technology

Science and Technology

Ronald E. Doel and

Zuoyue Wang

Science did not become a major concern of U.S. foreign policy until the twentieth century. This is not to say that science was unimportant to the young republic. U.S. leaders recognized that, in the Age of Reason, the prestige of science was part of the rivalry between nations. Yet through the nineteenth century science was primarily linked to foreign policy as an adjunct of trade relations or military exploration. By contrast, mechanical ability was central to the identity of Americans, and debates about the proper role of technology in American relations to Britain and Europe raged through the late nineteenth century, as the United States gained worldwide recognition for creating the modern technological nation.

Technologyand enthusiasm for technical solutions to social problemsremained important in American foreign relations through the twentieth century. But its position relative to science changed markedly after 1900. By the start of World War II, science became a new and urgent topic for policymakers, inspiring an uneasy relationship that profoundly challenged both diplomats and scientists. As the Cold War began, the U.S. government funded new institutions and programs that linked science with diplomatic efforts and national security aims. Some were cloaked in secrecy; others were incorporated into major foreign aid efforts such as the Marshall Plan. By the late twentieth century, policymakers viewed science and technology as synergistic twins, significant yet often unpredictable agents of economic, political, and social change on both national and global scales.


In the earliest years of the American Republic, the ideas of natural philosophy informed the world-view of the framers of the American Constitution. The most educated of them, including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin, were familiar with the ordered clockwork universe that the greatest of Enlightenment scientists, Isaac Newton, had created, and metaphors and analogies drawn from the sciences permeated their political discourse. But the pursuit and practice of science was seen as part of a transnational "Republic of Letters," above the petty politics of nations. When a group of Harvard scientists sought to observe an eclipse in Maine's Penobscot Bay at the height of the revolutionary war in 1780, British forces not only tolerated them but provided safe passage. Similarly, while Franklin was a singularly well-known scientist, widely revered in France as the founder of the science of electricity, he served as the new nation's emissary to Paris on account of his similarly impressive skills in diplomacy and familiarity with French centers of power. While a number of institutions responsible for scientific research emerged within several decades after the nation's founding, including the Coast and Geodetic Survey and the Naval Observatory, none dealt directly with areas of national policy. Alexis de Tocqueville over-looked significant pockets of learning when he declared in Democracy in America (1835) that "hardly anyone in the United States devotes himself to the essentially theoretical and abstract portion of human knowledge," but he was astute in observing that the "purely practical part of science"applied technologywas what stirred the American imagination.

Still, adroit statesmen recognized that the apolitical "republic of science" could be a helpful tool in aiding foreign policy ambitions, a value connected with scientific research that would grow dramatically in later years. Exploration and geographic knowledge were important elements in contests for empire, and the nascent United States did support several successful exploring expeditions prior to the mid-nineteenth century. When President Thomas Jefferson sought to send Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on an expedition to the Pacific northwest, but lacked funds to provide military escort, he asked whether the Spanish minister would object to travelers exploring the Missouri River with "no other view than the advancement of geography." But in his secret message to Congress in January 1803, Jefferson emphasized the value the Lewis and Clark expedition would have in aiding United States control over this vast territory. By insisting that Lewis and Clark make careful astronomical and meteorological observations, study natural history, and record Indian contacts, Jefferson underscored an important relationship between science and imperialism. A similar set of concerns motivated the U.S. Exploring Expedition (Wilkes Expedition), which between 1838 and 1842 visited Brazil, Tierra del Fuego, Chile, Australia, and the East Indies and skirted 1,500 miles of the Antarctic ice pack (providing the first sighting of the Antarctic continent). Pressure to fund the expedition had come from concerned commercial and military groups, including whalers, who saw the Pacific as important for American interests. They did not sail empty waters, for this U.S. expedition over-lapped with the voyages of the Beagle, the Antarctic expedition of Sir James Clark Ross of England, and the southern survey by Dumont d'Urville of France, and thus owed to nationalistic as well as scientific rivalries. Yet government-sponsored expeditions in this era remained infrequent.

By contrast, technological concerns were very much on the minds of American leaders. The industrial revolution was well underway in Britain at the time of the American Revolution. Stimulated by the depletion of forests by the early eighteenth century as wood was consumed for fuel, Britain had developed coal as an alternative energy source, accelerating technological development through the steam engine (the crucial invention of the first industrial revolution) and the construction of water-and steam-powered mills. By the time of the American Revolution, British industries were supplying the American colonies with manufactured goods, spun cloth, textiles, and iron implements employed in farming. The former colonists' victory created a dilemma for the newly independent states, as Britain sought to forbid the export of machines or even descriptions of them to maintain its trading advantage. While the war in fact only temporarily cut off the United States from the output of the burgeoning industrial mills in Birmingham, Manchester, and London, and resumed migration after the war allowed mechanics to transfer technical knowledge across the Atlantic, government leaders still faced the question of what kind of material society the United States would attempt to create.

Americans at the turn of the nineteenth century agreed on one matter: they did not wish the United States to acquire the "dark satanic mills" that had made Manchester and Birmingham grimy, filthy cities, with overflowing sewers, wretched working conditions, widespread disease, and choking smoke. But American leaders also realized that a rejection of mill technology raised fundamental questions about what standards of material comfort the United States would aspire to reach, and the means, domestic and foreign, it would need to adopt to achieve those ends. Since sources of power were needed to increase living standards, how and what ways the former colonies would develop means of production or acquire finished products would help to shape the future economic, political, and social structure of the nation.

The question of whether to import the factory system to America or to encourage the growth of the United States as an agrarian nation emerged as the initial critical struggle over the role of technology in American foreign policy. It fanned intense political passions in the nascent nation, and helped shape its first political parties. Thomas Jefferson favored limiting the import of technological systems and manufactured goods. Jefferson wanted a republic primarily composed of small farmers, who as independent landowners would enhance "genuine and substantial virtue." The growth of large cities, he feared, would lead to a privileged, capitalistic aristocracy and a deprived proletariat. Jefferson's vision of an agrarian republic represented an ideal in early American political thought, popularized by such works as Hector St. John de Crevecouer's Letters from an American Farmer in 1782. While Jefferson was not adverse to all forms of manufacturing and would later soften his opposition to it even more, he initially envisioned a republic in which American families produced needed textiles at home and traded America's natural resources and agricultural output to secure plows and other essential artifacts. His foreign policy thus sought autonomy at the cost of more limited energy production and a lower standard of living.

Opposition to Jefferson's vision came from Alexander Hamilton, the New York lawyer and protégé of President George Washington who served as the young nation's first secretary of the treasury. Hamilton favored a diversified capitalistic economy, backed by a strong central government and import tariffs designed to nurture fledgling American industries. In his influential Report on Manufactures in 1791, Hamilton argued that "The Employment of Machinery forms an item of great importance in the general mass of national industry." Fearing a lack of social order from over-reliance on an agricultural economy, Hamilton declared that the development of industry would encourage immigration, make better use of the diverse talents of individuals, promote more entrepreneurial activity, and create more robust markets for agricultural products. Hamilton's prescription for nationalism and his support for technology gained favor from Franklin, Washington, and John Adams, although fears of Jeffersonian Republicans that virtue followed the plow still held sway among many Americans.

By the 1830s and 1840s, Hamilton's ideas had gained the upper hand, and the federal government became a firm supporter of technological development as a promising means to promote national prosperity. Jefferson's embargo of 1807 and the War of 1812, which illuminated the vulnerability of relying on Britain for manufactured goods, helped spur this development, but another critical factor was American success in developing technologies that increased agricultural output, including the invention of the cotton gin and the mechanical harvester. The abundance of powerful rivers in New England allowed manufacturers to develop textile mills that relied on water power, initially allowing new manufacturing centers like Lowell, Massachusetts, to avoid the industrial grime of Manchester. No less important, the rapid advance of canals, river boat transportation, and especially railroads provided a model for the integration of hinter regions and seat of the nation, a means for insuring economic development and the sale of manufactured goods and products to foreign markets. For many, like the influential legislator William Seward, technology was the key to securing American domination over the continent and advancing trade. After Seward helped reinterpret patent law to insure that U.S. inventors would profit from their creations, patent numbers swelled. Patents granted rose from an average of 646 per year in the 1840s to 2,525 in the 1850s. Dreams of a global commercial empire were similarly behind American efforts to open Japan to U.S. trading after 1852, as Japan possessed the coal needed by steamships bound to ports in China. These arguments became an enduring component of American perceptions about its global role, finding expression in Alfred T. Mahan's influential late nineteenth-century work on the influence of sea power on history.

Events in the middle decades of the nineteenth century reinforced American acceptance of technology as central to national progress. U.S. manufacturing advantages became even more evident after the invention of the sewing machine and Charles Goodyear's patenting of a process to vulcanize rubber in 1844. The invention of the telegraph encouraged additional trade and opened new markets, and citizens heralded the completion of the first transcontinental telegraph cables in 1861 as a new chapter in establishing an American identity. Already ten years earlier, Americans had delighted at the positive reception British and European observers gave to U.S. built technological artifacts exhibited at the Crystal Palace exhibition in London. The Civil War forcefully focused national attention on the production of guns and steel, but even before the war American citizens had become convinced of the value of embracing new technological systems. National desires to develop a transcontinental railroad were sufficient to overcome nativist American attitudes toward foreign labor and open the doors to the over 12,000 Chinese laborers who completed laying Central Pacific track to create the first transcontinental railroad. By the time the Centennial International Exhibit opened in Philadelphia in 1876, visitors flocking to Machinery Hall were already convinced, as Seward had argued in 1844, that technology aided nationalism, centralization, and dreams of imperialistic expansion.


Three closely related factorsindustrialism, nationalism, and imperialismsoon combined to reinforce American enthusiasm for technology as a key element of national policy. By the end of the nineteenth century, the first industrial revolution (begun in England and concerned with adding steam power to manufacturing) yielded to a larger, globally oriented second industrial revolution, linked to broader systems of technological production and to imperialistic practice. In contrast to the first industrial revolution, which was regional and primarily affected manufacturers and urban dwellers, the second industrial revolution introduced mass-produced goods into an increasingly technologically dependent and international market. The rise of mass-produced sewing machines, automobiles, electrical lighting systems, and communications marked a profound transformation of methods of production and economics, becoming a major contributor to national economies in America and its European competitors. Manufacturing in the United States steadily climbed while the percentage of Americans working in agriculture declined from 84 percent in 1800 to less than 40 percent in 1900.

The second industrial revolution caused three important changes in the way Americans thought about the world and the best ways they could achieve national goals. First, the process of rapid industrialism brought about a heightened standard of living for many Americans, creating for the first time a distinct middle class. By the turn of the twentieth century, the architects of the interlocked technological systems that had made the United States an economic powerhousefrom the steel magnate Andrew Carnegie to the oil baron John D. Rockefeller and the inventor and electrical systems creator Thomas Alva Edisonwere increasingly represented in Washington, and their concerns helped shape foreign policy discussions. Second, and closely related, industrialization heightened an emerging sense of national identity and professionalization among citizens in the leading industrialized nations. The rise of nationalism was fueled not only by the technologies that these system builders created, but by other technologies and systems that rose with them, including low-cost mass-circulation newspapers, recordings of popular songs and national anthems, and public schools designed to instill in pupils the work ethic and social structure of the modern factory. The late nineteenth century was also the time that national and international scientific societies were created. American science was growing through the increasing numbers of young scientists who flocked to European universities to earn their Ph.D.s, carrying home a wealth of international contacts and commitments to higher standards. It was no coincidence that the rise of professional scientific communities paralleled the expanding middle class, as both groups found common support in the expansion of land-grant and private universities and in the industrial opportunities that awaited graduates of those universities. These new networks crystallized swiftly: they included the American Chemical Society (1876), the International Congress of Physiological Sciences (1889), the American Astronomical Society (1899), and the International Association of Academies (1899). The American Physical Society (1899) was founded two years before the federal government created the National Bureau of Standards, reflecting growing concerns from industrialists about creating international standards for manufacture.

Finally, the rise of advanced capitalist economies came to split the globe into "advanced" and "backward" regions, creating a distinct group of industrial nations linked to myriad colonial dependencies. Between 1880 and 1914 most of the Earth's surface was partitioned into territories ruled by the imperial powers, an arrangement precipitated by strategic, economic, and trade needs of these modern states, including the securing of raw materials such as rubber, timber, and petroleum. By the early 1900s, Africa was split entirely between Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Portugal, and Spain, while Britain acquired significant parts of the East Asian subcontinent, including India. The demands of modern technological systems both promoted and reinforced these changes. The British navy launched the HMS Dreadnought in 1906, a super-battleship with greater speed and firing range than any other vessel, to help maintain its national edge and competitive standing among its trade routes and partners, while imperialistic relations were maintained by technological disparities in small-bore weapons. One was a rapid-fire machine gun invented by Sir Hiram Maxim, adapted by British and European armies after the late 1880s. Its role in the emerging arms race of the late nineteenth century was summed in an oftrepeated line of doggerel: "Whatever happens we have got/The Maxim gun and they have not."

The American experience in imperialism was less extensive than that of the leading European industrial nations, but nonetheless marked a striking shift from its earlier foreign policy. Until the early 1890s American diplomatic policy favored keeping the nation out of entangling alliances, and the United States had no overseas possessions. But by 1894 the United States came to administer the islands of Hawaii, and after the Spanish-American War of 1898 gained possession of (and later annexed) the Philippines. The story of America's beginnings as an imperial power has often been told, but the significance of technology and technological systems as a central factor in this development is not well appreciated. It is perhaps easier to see in the U.S. acquisition of the Panama Canal Zone in 1903. President Theodore Roosevelt and other American leaders recognized how an American-controlled canal would enhance its trade and strategic standing within the Pacific; they also had little doubt that U.S. industrialists and systems builders could construct it. A widely published photograph from that time reveals Roosevelt seated behind the controls of a massive earthmover in the Canal Zone. This single technological artifact served as an apt metaphor for the far larger technological system that turn-of-the-century Americans took great pride in creating.

World War Ia global conflict sparked by the clashing nationalistic aims of leading imperialist nationspulled scientists and engineers further into the realm of diplomacy. While scientists continued to insist on the apolitical character of science, publication of a highly nationalistic defense of the German invasion of Serbia by leading German scientists in 1914 had left that ideal in tatters. More important, perhaps, was how the war educated Americans about its emerging role as a premier technological nation, and the importance of maintaining adequate sources of petroleum. After 1918, U.S. firms gained Germany's treasured chemical patents as war reparations, expanding American domination of textiles and the petrochemical industries. Americans also found that the leaders of the Russian revolution of 1917, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, coveted American machinery and the American system of production to build the Soviet republic. By 1929 the Ford Motor Company had signed agreements with Moscow to build thousands of Ford autos and trucks, and Soviet authorities sought to adapt the management principles of Frederick Winslow Taylor in a Russian version of Taylorism.

The widening intersection between science, technology, and foreign relations was not limited entirely to contests between the United States and other imperialist powers. In the Progressive Era, biologists began to urge diplomats to aid efforts to preserve threatened species whose migrations took them across international boundaries. While efforts to ameliorate overfishing in the boundary waters separating the United States and Canada and seal hunting in the Bering Sea in the early 1890s amounted to little, a strong campaign to aid songbird populations resulted in the Migratory Bird Act of 1918 between the United States and Great Britain (on behalf of Canada), one of the most important early instances of a bilateral science-based treaty negotiated by the federal government. The significance of this treaty was not just what it accomplished (even though it served as an exemplar for other environmental treaties between the United States and its neighbors, including the Colorado River water treaty signed with Mexico in 1944). It also underscored the growing appeal of conservation values among middle-and upper-class American citizens, who joined with scientists to create nature preserves in unspoiled wilderness areas outside the United States, particularly in Africa. In such places, "nature appreciation" emerged as a commodity for tourism, its value determined by declining opportunities to experience wilderness in the North American continent. Private investments of this kind became a potent area of U.S. influence in the world's less developed areas, and took place alongside more traditional interactions including trade relations and missionary work.


Science and technology entered a new phase in American foreign relations at the end of the 1930s. Gathering war clouds in western Europe convinced scientists and military leaders that greater attention had to be paid to scientific and technological developments that might aid the United States and its allies. World War II and the ensuing Cold War marked a fundamental watershed in the role that science and scientists would play in American diplomatic efforts. By the late 1940s, new institutions for international science arose within an unprecedented variety of settings (including the Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency). Secrecy concerns influenced the practice of science and international communications, and new career opportunities arose as science and technology became significant in U.S. foreign policy as never before.

The integration of science into U.S. foreign policy during World War II initially came from the urging of scientists. In August 1939, just months after the German chemist Otto Hahn and Austrian physicist Lise Meitner, working with others, discovered that heavy atomic nuclei could be split to release energy, three scientists including Albert Einstein urged President Franklin D. Roosevelt to fund a crash program to see if an atomic bomb could be constructed. The Manhattan Project that ultimately resulted became the largest research project in the United States to date, one that involved intense and active cooperation with scientists from Great Britain and Canada. Advanced research in the United States also benefited from the emigration of outstanding Jewish scientists from Germany and Italy after the rise of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. But the atomic bomb project was only one area of international scientific cooperation: in 1940 the eminent British scientific leader Sir Henry Tizard flew to Washington on a secret mission to persuade the U.S. government to cooperate in building a system of radar and radar countermeasures. The Tizard mission laid the groundwork for effective Allied cooperation in building a wide range of science-based technological systems, including radar, the proximity fuze, and the atomic bomb. Scientists who served within the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development, with access to greater manufacturing capacity than Britain, also put into production the new drug penicillin.

Concern with devising new wartime weapon systems was equaled by strenuous Allied efforts to discover what science-based weapon systems Germany and Japan had constructed. Through such bilateral efforts, World War II thus nurtured two critical developments that would shape science and technology in the postwar world: the imposition of secrecy systems to protect national security concerns, and the creation of scientific intelligence programs to discover foreign progress in science and technology (particularly but not limited to advances in weaponry). Like penicillin, scientific intelligence was largely a British invention: British scientific intelligence was more advanced than U.S. efforts at the start of the war, owing to its need to buttress its island defenses. But by 1944 U.S. leaders joined Allied efforts to send scientific intelligence teams behind the front lines of advancing Allied troops in western Europe, known as the ALSOS intelligence mission. While the most famous and best-remembered goal of the ALSOS teams was to discover whether Germany had built its own atomic bomb, this was only part of its larger mission to determine German advances in biological and chemical weapons, aeronautical and guided-missile research, and related scientific and technological systems. Broad fields of science were now for the first time relevant to foreign policy concerns.

Allied scientific intelligence missions also served another function: to catalog and inventory German and Japanese research and technological facilities as assets in determining wartime reparations and postwar science policy in these defeated nations. Both Soviet and Allied occupational armies sent back scientific instruments and research results as war booty. In Germany, where the U.S. and Soviet armies converged in April 1945, U.S. science advisers sought to locate and capture German rocket experts who had built the V-2 guided missiles, including Wernher von Braun. Von Braun's team was soon brought to the United States under Project Paperclip, an army program that processed hundreds of Axis researchers without standard immigration screening for evidence of Nazi war crimes. Operation Paperclip was the most visible symbol of a concerted campaign to secure astronomers, mathematicians, biologists, chemists, and other highly trained individuals to aid American research critical for national security. In Japan, U.S. scientists focused primarily on wartime Japanese advances in biological warfare. While members of the Japanese Scientific Intelligence Mission that accompanied General Douglas MacArthur's occupation forces were unable to stop the senseless destruction of a research reactor by U.S. soldiers, science advisers successfully insisted that applied science and technology were critical components of Japan's economic recovery.

Above all it was the use of atomic weapons against Japan in the closing days of World War II that brought science and technology into the realm of U.S. foreign policy as never before. The roughly 140,000 who died immediately at Nagasaki and Hiroshima, combined with the awesome destructive power of a device that relied on the fundamental forces of nature, made the atomic bomb the enduring symbol of the marriage of science and the state. In subsequent decades the U.S. decision to employ atomic weapons has become one of the most fiercely debated events in American foreign policy. Even before the bomb decision was made, a number of American atomic scientists protested plans to use nuclear weapons against Japan since it, unlike Nazi Germany, lacked the capacity to construct atomic weapons of its own. How the decision to use the bomb was made has split historians. Some have argued that U.S. leaders sought to end the war before the Soviet Union could officially declare war on Japan and thus participate in its postwar government, but many have concluded that other motivations were at least as important, including fears that Japanese leaders might have fought far longer without a show of overwhelming force and domestic expectations that all available weapons be used to conclude the war. Others have pointed out that U.S. policymakers had long seemed especially attracted to the use of technology in its dealings with Asian countries.

The largest conflict over nuclear weapons in the immediate postwar period involved the American monopoly over them, and how the United States could best safeguard the postwar peace. Bernard Baruch, the financier and statesman, proposed that atomic power be placed under international control through the newly established United Nations. The Soviet Union vetoed the Baruch Plan, believing that the proposal was designed to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, conservatives promoted a congressional bill that placed atomic energy under military control. Liberal scientists opposed the bill and advocated civilian control instead. In 1946, with the support of President Harry S. Truman, a Senate committee under Brien McMahon drafted a new bill that eventually resulted in a civilian-led (but militarily responsive) Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), one of the first postwar agencies designed to address science in foreign policy.

As the Cold War began, debate over science and technology in American foreign policy split along familiar lines. The most well-known of these involved efforts to maintain the deeply eroded traditions of scientific internationalism. Atomic scientists who supported international control of atomic energy created new national organizations, including the Federation of American Scientists. Participating scientists, including Albert Einstein, argued that physicists could aid the development of world government that would avoid the political perils of atomic warfare. In July 1957 nuclear scientists convened the first Pugwash meeting, drawing nuclear scientists from Western and communist nations to discuss approaches to nuclear disarmament. But promoters of scientific internationalism were not solely interested in atomic issues. The liberal internationalist and Harvard astronomer Harlow Shapley backed prominent British scientists Julian Huxley and Joseph Needham in their efforts to highlight science within the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Leaders of the Rockefeller Foundation launched major new science initiatives in Latin America, while the National Academy of Sciences urged policymakers not to restrict American access to the world community of science. While public support for these positions remained high during the early years of the Cold War, they faded after Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin resumed a well-publicized crackdown on "bourgeois" research in genetics in favor of Trofin Lysenko's promotion of Lamarckian inheritance. This repression convinced many Americans that objective Soviet science had succumbed to state control. By the McCarthy era unrepentant internationalists were targets of a growing conservative backlash. The biochemist and Nobel Laureate Linus Paulingwho won a second Nobel Prize in 1962 for his campaign to end nuclear testingwas one of several outspoken American scientists whose passport was temporarily revoked in the 1950s.

At the same time, other scientists began working with government officials in Washington, sometimes clandestinely, to investigate ways that scientists could aid U.S. national security by addressing major issues in American foreign policy. These activities took many forms. One of the more visible steps came in 1949, when President Truman announced, as the fourth point of his inaugural speech, that the United States was willing to "embark on a bold new program for making the benefit of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of under-developed areas." After Congress approved the so-called Point Four program a year later, tens of millions of dollars supported bilateral projects in science education, public health, agriculture, and civil engineering, adding to mainstream Marshall Plan funds used to restore technological and scientific capacity in the warravaged nations of western Europe. At the same time, U.S. scientists and technical experts worked to thwart Soviet efforts to obtain advanced Western computers, electronic devices, and other technologies and resources critical to weapons development. These included efforts to limit export of weapons-grade uranium to the Soviet Union and to deny Soviet access to Scandinavian heavy water as well as prominent Swedish scientists in the event of a Soviet invasion.

For U.S. policymakers, a principal challenge was to secure reliable overt and covert information on the scientific and technological capacity of other nations, since such intelligence was necessary to match enemy advances in weaponryparticularly in biological, chemical, and radiological warfare. A major point of intersection between physicists and U.S. policymakers came in efforts to discern Soviet advances in atomic bomb work and in developing methods to detect and analyze Soviet atomic tests, a task that gained greater urgency after the Soviet Union exploded its first nuclear device in August 1949. Hindered by a paltry flow of overt information from communist countries, U.S. scientists sought alternative means to secure such data. In 1947 several scientists who had managed the wartime U.S. science effort, including Vannevar Bush, James Conant, and Lloyd V. Berkner, helped create a set of new institutions devoted to the role of international science in national security. The first was the Office of Scientific Intelligence within the newly formed Central Intelligence Agency. Three years later, scientists working with the Department of State created a scientific attaché program, patterned on the U.K. Science Mission. A 1950 Berkner report to Secretary of State Dean Acheson, justifying this effort, declared that the program would strengthen Western science while providing American scientists and businesses helpful information; a secret supplement optimistically spelled out ways that attachés could covertly secure needed intelligence. Yet by 1952, national security experts concluded that foreign science and technology intelligence-gathering from the CIA and the Department of State remained woefully inadequate. The United States then created the top-secret National Security Agency to foster signals intelligence, employing the clandestine code-breaking strategies that had aided Allied victory during World War II.

Scientists and policymakers both found the abrupt integration of science into U.S. foreign policy unnerving. Many American scientists recognized that post-1945 national security concerns required pragmatic compromise of the unfettered exchange of information that had long been the ideal of science. The close relations that developed between scientists and the government during World War II also helped certain scientists undertake clandestine research programs. But most American scientists resented increasingly tight security restrictions, demands for secrecy, loyalty oaths, and mandatory debriefings by federal agents following overseas professional trips. Scientists who accepted posts in the State Department felt the snubs of colleagues who regarded such service less prestigious than lab-bench research. For their part, traditional foreign relations experts, trained in economics or history, were largely unfamiliar with the concepts or practices of science, disdained the capacity of scientists in war-ravaged western Europe and the Soviet Union to produce quality science, and perceived the inherent internationalism of scientists suspicious if not unpatriotic. Such views were widespread within the national security bureaucracy. Federal Bureau of Investigation director J. Edgar Hoover, familiar with top-secret Venona intercepts of encrypted Soviet communications used to discover atomic spies in the United States, regarded the internationalism of scientists as a threat to democracy and the proper aims of U.S. foreign policy.

Despite these mutual tensions, American leaders in the 1950s nonetheless sought to use science to influence foreign policy debates. Officials used scientific intelligence to refute highly publicized (and still unresolved) Chinese claims that American forces in Korea had violated international accords by employing bacteriological weapons in the winter of 1952. Even greater use of science as an ideological weapon was made by President Dwight Eisenhower, who in a major speech to the United Nations General Assembly in December 1953 offered his "Atoms for Peace" proposal calling for the peaceful uses of atomic power. Regarded at the time as a Marshall Plan for atomic energy, Atoms for Peace promoted the development of nuclear cooperation, trade, and nonproliferation efforts in noncommunist nations; it also provided nuclear research reactors to countries in South America and Asia. Eisenhower's advisers felt certain that the Soviet Union could not match the Atoms for Peace offer, and hence would suffer a political setback as a result. They also believed it would reduce the threat of nuclear warfare, an anxiety shared by western European leaders after the United States explicitly made massive retaliation the cornerstone of its national security policy.

Historians have debated the significance and meaning of the Atoms for Peace proposal. On the one hand, some maintain that Eisenhower correctly perceived that the most effective means of halting nuclear proliferation would come from promoting and regulating nuclear power through the auspices of the United Nations, while ensuring that the European western democracies would gain direct access to what at the time seemed a safe and low-cost source of energy. The program helped the United States secure 90 percent of the reactor export market by the 1960s. On the other hand, critics charge that Atoms for Peace actually served to increase the danger of nuclear proliferation. Yet other historians regard Atoms for Peace as part of a grander strategy to mute criticism of the accelerated buildup of U.S. nuclear weapons stockpiles and their secret dispersal to locations around the world, including West Germany, Greenland, Iceland, South Korea, and Taiwan. It is also clear that Eisenhower sought to exploit the apolitical reputation of science to wage psychological warfare and to gather strategic intelligence. In the mid-1950s the Eisenhower administration approved funds for the International Geophysical Year (IGY) of 19571958, an enormous effort to study the terrestrial environment involving tens of thousands of scientists from sixty-seven nations (a plan conceived, among others, by science adviser Lloyd Berkner). In one sense, Eisenhower's support for the IGY was overdetermined: policymakers saw an advantage in limiting rival nations' territorial claims to Antarctica by making the frozen realm a "continent for science" under IGY auspices, and Eisenhower recognized that a planned "scientific" satellite launch would enhance international claims for overflight of other nations' airspace, a concern because of U.S. reliance on high-altitude U-2 aircraft fights to gain intelligence on the Soviet Union. It was a strategy that his predecessor, Thomas Jefferson, had also understood.

Despite their greater involvement in foreign policymaking, scientists largely remained outsiders from diplomatic circles. This was due to several factors. Throughout his first term, Eisenhower maintained his small staff of science advisers in the Office of Defense Management, a marginal agency remote from the machinery of the White House. More importantly, the White House failed to defend scientists against charges from Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee that cast dispersions against the loyalty of atomic scientists, particularly after the Soviet atomic bomb test of 1949. With the declassification of the Venona intercepts, historians now understand that American espionage did provide Soviet agents with details of the "Fat Man" plutonium implosion bomb used at Nagasaki, giving Soviet physicists perhaps a year's advantage in constructing their own initial atomic weapon. This level of spying was greater than many on the left then believed, but far less than what Republican critics of scientific internationalism charged. These highly publicized accusations, and the loyalty investigation of atomic bomb project leader J. Robert Oppenheimer, nevertheless aided ideological conservatives convinced that scientists represented a threat to national security and that international science needed to be controlled along with foreign cultural and intellectual exchange. After the conservative-leaning U.S. News and World Report in 1953 reported a claim that the State Department's science office was "a stink hole of out-and-out Communists," Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, ignoring the protests of scientists, allowed the science attaché program to wither away.

These clashes pointed to fundamental tensions in efforts to employ science in American foreign policy. Moderates in the executive branch sought to use scientific internationalism to embarrass Soviet bloc countries by advertising links between Western democracy and achievements in science and technology (a theme heavily promoted in the Brussels World Exposition of 1958). Many believed that scientists in communist nations were the most likely agents for democratization and thus potential allies. Opposing them were ideological conservatives determined to limit international science contacts to strengthen national security and to restore clarity to U.S. foreign policy. These tensions came to a head in the mid-1950s when State Department officials refused to pay U.S. dues to parent international scientific unions in part because unrecognized regimes, including Communist China, were also members. American dues were instead quietly paid by the Ford Foundation, whose directors understood that the CIA's scientific intelligence branch greatly benefited from informal information and insights passed on by traveling American scientists. While the CIA's clandestine support for scientific internationalism helped sustain U.S. participation in major international bodies in the nadir of the Cold War, this conflict would not be resolved before the Sputnik crisis interceded.


By the late 1950s a second fundamental shift occurred in the role of science and technology in U.S. foreign policy. The shift had several causes. One was the launch of Sputnik, which established the Soviets as a potent technological force in the eyes of observers throughout the world, including western Europe. Another was that the Soviet Union's space spectacular occurred in the midst of the independence movement among former colonies in Africa and Asia. This worried U.S. officials who believed that Soviet triumphs in applied science and technology would tempt these emerging nations to develop socialist governments and build alliances with the Eastern bloc. Yet another factor was the heightened role of science in new multilateral treaty negotiations, including the Antarctic Treaty and the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which brought scientists and policymakers into ever tighter orbits. Finally, increasing concern from American citizens about an environment at risk from radioactive fallouta view shared by leaders of western European governmentshelped make a wide range of environmental concerns from declining fish populations to improving agricultural productivity and addressing air and water pollution a greater focus of American foreign policy. Together, these led to a considerable transformation of U.S. foreign policy, increasing the influence of United Nations and nongovernmental organizations, and heightening diplomatic links between the northern and southern hemispheres. While efforts to coordinate U.S. science policy remained ineffective, and relations between scientists and policymakers were sometimes strained, this realignment would persist through the end of the twentieth century.

The launch of Sputnik was a major foreign relations setback to the United States, in no small part because of American faith in its technology and a widespread conviction in the West that scientific and technological development within a democracy would triumph over that within a totalitarian state. But on 4 October 1957, the 184-pound Sputnik I, emitting a pulsed electronic beep, became the Earth's first artificial satellite. The launch produced banner headlines around the world and convinced many Allies that Eastern bloc science and technology was equal to that of the United States. Secret U.S. Information Agency polling in Britain and in western Europe indicated that a quarter of their populations believed the Soviet Union was ahead in science and technology. In response, the United States accelerated programs designed to symbolize the nation's scientific and material progress, above all the space program. For the next quarter century science and technology would take on a new role in foreign policyas a surrogate for national prosperity and stability.

Elevating science and technology as symbols of national potency, and hence as tools of foreign policy, took several forms. One was by investing in highly visible technological projects. The space program developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was a prime example. Technology as a symbol of national prestige was embodied in the bold (and ultimately successful) proposal to land humans on the moon by 1969, which President John F. Kennedy announced in a speech to Congress in May 1961 after his most embarrassing foreign policy failure, the Bay of Pigs disaster. But this was only one expression of many. The Kennedy administration also stepped up international programs in such fields as agriculture, medicine, and oceanography. As with the Wilkes Expedition a century before, the motivations behind such efforts were mixed. New research programs in oceanography were intended to help increase fish harvests by less developed countries, and American oceanographic vessels could show the flag at distant points of call. But oceanography was also a particularly strategic field because of growing concerns with antisubmarine warfare and efforts by less developed countries, working through United Nations bureaus, to extend their sovereignty to two hundred nautical miles beyond their coasts. Knowing the sizes of Soviet fish harvests was also of strategic value. Undertakings such as the multinational Indian Ocean Expedition of 19641965, which American scientists helped plan, seamlessly embodied all of these aims.

Science constituencies both within and outside the federal government responded to the Soviet achievement in various ways. Worried air force officials, anxious to demonstrate U.S. technological competence in the months following the launch of Sputnik, proposed detonating a Hiroshima-sized bomb on the moon in 1959 that would be instantaneously visible to watchers from Earth. Cooler heads at the Department of State and the White House did not consider this idea because of its militaristic connotations. The National Science Foundation advocated increasing the number of exchanges between U.S. and Soviet scientists, while White House staff members supported the AEC's Plowshare program to make peaceful uses of atomic bombs, among them creating new canals and harbors. Members of Congress echoed private science groups in arguing that the Sputnik crisis showed that the United States had fallen behind in training future scientists. The massive rise in federal spending for math and science education after 1958 was another direct consequence of this foreign relations crisis.

The Sputnik shock forced administration officials to recognize that existing mechanisms for coordinating science and technology within foreign policy were inadequate. In 1957, President Eisenhower announced the creation of the position of special assistant to the president for science and technology (commonly known as the presidential science adviser) and the President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC) to provide the White House with advice on scientific and technical matters domestic and foreign. While members of PSAC, which was always chaired by the science adviser, were initially drawn from the physical sciences, reflecting continued preoccupation with space, nuclear weapons, and guided-missile delivery systems, PSAC's mandate soon expanded to include a wide range of scientific disciplines. The State Department's Science Office and attaché program, nearly eviscerated before Sputnik, was revived and handed new responsibilities for coordinating bilateral and multilateral programs. Not all government officials saw the increased focus on science and technology as positive. A Latin American ambassador complained that the U.S. embassy in Rio de Janeiro "needs a science attaché the way a cigar-store Indian needs a brassiere." Despite such criticisms, Washington exported these conceptions into its regional security alliances, creating a new science directorate within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). While Democrats worried that this plan would militarize western European science and limit contacts with Soviet colleagues, NATO's science directorate steered new research contracts to its closest allies.

Another response to the Sputnik crisis was a dramatic expansion of foreign aid programs to support science and technology. In 1961 President Kennedy announced the creation of the Agency for International Development (AID), with an explicit mandate to fund research, education, and technology-based programs around the world. Advocates of old-style scientific internationalism supported AID programs as a way to extend UN programs that nurtured emerging research centers and sustainable development in less developed countries. In certain respects they were not disappointed: AID science programs provided significantly greater support to Latin-American countries in the 1960s and 1970s than their feeble counterparts in the early Cold War period. Grants funded desalination projects, teacher training, and scientific equipment; in cooperation with science attachés, officials also protested the mistreatment of academics in Argentina and Brazil in the 1960s. But as with the Marshall Plan, foreign aid programs in science and technology were adjuncts in the greater struggle to extend U.S. influence to Latin America, the Asian subcontinent, and sub-Saharan Africa, and to win the hearts and minds of leaders in less developed countries deciding between Western and Soviet models of economic development. In practice, however, it was often difficult to separate humanitarian motives from calculation of Realpolitik. U.S. support for costly rain experiments in India's Bihar-Uttar Pradesh area in the mid-1960s was justified by noting that these programs aided American policy aims by mitigating Indian embarrassment at lagging behind Chinese efforts to create an atomic bomb. But this secret research, however fanciful, did attempt to mitigate a life-threatening drought.

The best-known science and technology foreign-assistance program from this period was the Green Revolution. Based on hybrid forms of rice and wheat that had been developed in the United States in the 1930s, the Green Revolution promised to allow poorer nations to avoid the Malthusian dilemma by increasing the efficiency of planted fields to satisfy the demands of growing populations. In India, where severe drought crippled crops between 1965 and 1967, the planting of high-yield grains nearly doubled wheat and rice yields by the late 1970s. Stimulated and financed by the Rockefeller and the Ford Foundations, the Green Revolution was one of the most well-known private foreign aid programs during the Cold War.

Historians have reached differing conclusions about the impact and effectiveness of U.S. scientific and technological aid programs to Latin America and to sub-Saharan Africa in the 1960s and 1970s. Some argue that American aid programs in science and technology represent long-nurtured humanitarian impulses similar to those that informed the Marshall Plan and in general no less successful. Few scholars doubt that the American scientists and policy officials who designed these programs genuinely believed their efforts would achieve positive social ends. However, other historians have pointed out that scientists who sought grandiose results such as weather modification and greatly enlarged fish catches were overconfident about their ability to master nature without harming natural processes, and recent assessments of the Green Revolution have made clear that production gains were less than earlier claimed. A more significant problem was that planners often failed to realize that technical systems developed in advanced capitalistic countries could not be transported wholesale into other regions without concurrent local innovations and adaptive technologies. American enthusiasm about exporting the fruits of U.S. technologies was often accompanied by hubris in assessing the environments of less developed countries.

Beginning in the 1960s, American policymakers also faced new demands to negotiate international agreements governing applications of science and technology. A convergence of factors brought this about. The economic costs of maintaining the U.S. nuclear arsenal, concerns about proliferation, and a desire to moderate the arms race led the Eisenhower administration to begin discussions with the Soviet Union about what became the 1963 Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The close call narrowly avoided in the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 inspired President Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev to sign it. But another reason was the growing realization among scientists and policymakers that even the testing of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons represented a genuine threat to the health of American citizens and populations worldwide, and that such tests could have unintended consequences for diplomatic relations and regional stability. From secret monitoring of manmade radioactivity levels in the 1950s, scientists understood that measurable amounts had already spread worldwide. Policymakers were also unnerved by the "Bravo" nuclear test on Bikini Island in March 1954, a fifteen-megaton blast more than a thousand times the size of the Hiroshima bomb. Radioactive ash from the test spread across a broader area of the Pacific than expected, contaminating the Japanese tuna ship Lucky Dragon and in turn causing a panic in the Japanese fishing market and outrage in Japan and elsewhere. National Security Council members worried that a disruption of Japan's primary food resource might destabilize government and allow Soviet encroachment. Amplifying these worries was growing popular concern with an environment at risk, accentuated by anxiety concerning nuclear and chemical fallout and the contaminants issue exemplified by Rachel Carson's 1962 Silent Spring. International treaties served policymakers' ends by reassuring citizens of limitations on uses of science-based weapon systems that many Americans found unsafe and threatening.

To be sure, policymakers often found it difficult to steer science to aid foreign policy goals, in part resulting from the elite nature of science, in part because the goals of scientists were often tangential to those of the state. But part of the problem was that by the 1960s policymakers could no longer count on a compliant media to keep covert activities involving international scientific activities secret. In 1962, the New York Times reported a highly secret test of a U.S. atomic bomb exploded in outer space eight hundred miles from Hawaii, code-named Starfish. The resulting controversy intensified suspicions of citizen groups on the left that science had become an extension of state power and morally suspect. Though U.S. officials successfully concealed many related projects from view, demands for greater openness led the 1975 Church Committee to examine unauthorized medical experiments within the CIA, and subsequent revelations about U.S. efforts to employ radiological warfare and to steer hurricanes toward enemy lands raised ethical dilemmas for many citizens. Yet at times the government successfully mobilized public support behind using science as a moral weapon. In 1982 the U.S. government canceled its bilateral science agreements with the Soviet Union to protest its treatment of atomic physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov and its persecution of Jewish scientists. But at least as often relations between policymakers and their scientific advisers fractured. President Richard Nixon abolished PSAC in 1973 for its opposition to his antiballistic missile, supersonic transport, and Vietnam policies. In 1983 President Ronald Reagan announced his decision to proceed with his "Star Wars" Strategic Defense Initiative after consulting a small circle of scientists, bypassing standard review circles in an attempt to use science for strategic advantage.

By the 1970s and 1980s, policymakers also found that the critical defining relations for international science were no longer exclusively East-West but also North-South, between the developed and developing nations. U.S. scientists and diplomats were slower to react to this change than to the upheavals of anticolonialism in the late 1950s, misperceiving the significance of the change. When the Pakistani physicist and Nobel Laureate Abdus Salam created the International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, in 1964, a center devoted to researchers from less developed nations, leading U.S. scientists and policymakers criticized Salam's plan as simply duplicating existing Western research facilities. But Salam's institute (backed by the United Nations and private foundations) was soon followed by parallel efforts in other fields, whose leaders sought to set research agendas reflecting the peculiar needs of these developing lands. Although often wary of these new centers (which reflected the growing influence of the UN, UNESCO, and other multilateral agencies such as the International Atomic Energy Agency remote from American influence), U.S. officials sought to remain appraised of their activities.

Even if science sometimes seemed an uncertain asset in American foreign policy, U.S. policy-makers continued to regard technology as a key indicator of the superiority of American capitalism, illuminating the nation's core values of productivity and resourcefulness. Most Americans still believed that technological solutions existed for a large range of social and political problems. Early in the Cold War, many Americans suggested that Soviet citizens would revolt if sent Sears catalogs showing a cornucopia of American products, and their faith in technological fixes persisted after the launch of Sputnik. Perhaps technology, as embodied in military power, could cut through cultural differences to get the American message across. There was a sense of technological superiority on the part of American policymakers with a penchant for technological solutions to complex social and political problems in U.S. interactions with Asian countries. This was especially the case during the Vietnam War, when American scientists, engineers, military, and civilian leaders worked together to create and implement carpet bombing, defoliants, and electronic battlefields.

American policymakers also sought to capitalize on Asian countries' desire to catch up with the West in science and technology. This interest was not new: the U.S. government, when returning part of the Boxer indemnities to China in the early 1900s, had stipulated that the Chinese government had to use the returned funds for sending students to the United States to study science and technology-related subjects. As a result, the Boxer fellowships helped train several generations of Chinese scientists and engineers. In the 1970s and 1980s, American policymakers again hoped that American science and technology would play a role in the reopening and the normalization of U.S.China relations. The Shanghai Communique signed by Henry Kissinger and Zhou Enlai during Richard Nixon's famous trip to China in 1972 highlighted science and technology, along with culture, sports, and journalism, as areas for people-to-people contacts and exchanges. Indeed, the ensuing exchange of students and scholars, including large numbers of scientists and engineers, shaped U.S.China relations in many ways during this period. In this connection, the disproportionately large number of Chinese Americans who work in science and technology-related fields often played an important role in facilitating such exchanges and in mitigating U.S.China tensions.

Faith in technological solutions to problems of U.S. foreign policy remained evident in the waning days of the Cold War, even as significant manufacturing sectors were shifted from the United States to lower-cost labor markets throughout the globe. This same faith was applied to relations with the Soviet Union. As historian Walter LaFeber has noted, Secretary of State George P. Shultz learned about the rapid advances of information technology and communications in the early 1980s, at the start of the Reagan presidency. He decided that communications technology could be used to make the Soviet Union face a potentially undermining choice: to yield control over information, at the cost of weakening the system, or maintaining communist controls at the cost of dramatically weakening its science and technology (and hence its economy and military). Against the advice of intelligence and State Department officials who saw few inherent technological weaknesses to exploit within the Soviet system, and convinced that the information revolution would lead to decentralized rather than central controls, Shultz pressed to bring this hard choice to the fore of American Soviet policy. While the decline and ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union resulted from a complex set of social, political, and technological factors, modern information technology had become an important tool in U.S. foreign policy.


The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the collapse of the Soviet Union two years later, accelerated two significant and already evident trends. The first was the decreased ability of the federal government to regulate the involvement of Americans in international science and technological ventures. This decline owed to further advances in communications technology, the continued globalization of manufacture and research, and an unprecedented expansion of nonprofit organizations involved in myriad aspects of foreign science policy. The second was greater international support for global treaties designed to limit technologies that threatened the natural environment.

Reduced state control over the conduct and practice of science and technology as aspects of foreign policy had several causes. One was the general relaxation of state restrictions that followed the end of the Cold War, including a reduced level of concern about the threat of nuclear annihilation (though, as the abortive spy trial of the Los Alamos physicist Wen Ho Lee in the late 1990s would attest, the federal government remained vigilant, or even overzealous, as critics charged, about prosecuting alleged violations of nuclear secrets trade). By 1990, international scientific exchanges had become so commonplace that the Department of State, which thirty years before had scrutinized each case, gave up trying to count them. Yet another was the rising influence of the biological and environmental sciences, challenging the dominance of the physical sciences as the key determinant of foreign policy in the sciences and providing nongovernmental organizations greater influence on policy decisions. In 1995 some 110,000 biological and life scientists were employed by the federal government, double the number from twelve years before. Well-funded conservation groups such as the World Wildlife Federation continued to export wilderness values and sustainable development concerns around the globe, including that for the Amazon rainforests, while more militant organizations, including Greenpeace, succeeded in stimulating public pressure to address problems with international whaling practices and the regulation of drilling platforms in international waters. No less influential were private foundationsnotably the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which announced a $100 million commitment to international AIDS research in 2001their undertaking reminiscent of the early twentieth century foreign health campaigns of the Rockefeller Foundation. But commercial concerns from powerful business interests also shaped State Department policies toward international science and technology, particularly as the growing commercial value of products derived from molecular biology and genetics inspired Eli Lilly, Hoffman-LaRoche, Genentech, and other large multinational firms to organize research and production facilities on a global scale.

Another factor that undermined the ability of the state to regulate international science and technological projects was the increasingly transnational character of fundamental scientific research. While the institutional structure of science remained largely national in charactersince the state remained the dominant patron of scientific researchscientists found fewer barriers to participating in international collaborations than at any prior time in history. Transnational coauthorships in leading scientific nations reached 19 percent by the mid-1980s, and scientists found it easier to cross borders to conduct experiments at major foreign research facilities and to attend conferences in once off-limit cities such as Havana and Beijing. Financial exhaustion caused by the Cold War also inspired new transnational technological collaborations, including the U.S.Russian space station, the Cassini Mission to Saturn, and the multinational Human Genome Project, the first big-science undertaking in the biological sciences. While Washington policymakers generally saw these developments as advantageous to U.S. interests, the reduction of centralized controls over technical systems occasionally disturbed security-conscious officials. During the administration of President William Jefferson Clinton, law enforcement agencies attempted to restrict the importation of foreign encryption programs, seeking to retain access to information transmitted via computers for criminal investigations and national security purposes, but technological firms successfully resisted this effort.

But the ending of the Cold War, which left the United States as the sole surviving superpower, also caused policymakers to scale back on efforts to convince other world leaders of the merits of capitalist-based science and technology. Despite calls for a new Marshall Plan to aid the democratic transformation of the former Soviet Union (which included providing ways to keep unemployed Russian nuclear technicians and bioweapons specialists from taking their skills to Iran, Libya, and other sponsors of international terrorism), the United States provided little support. Private efforts to provide such support did not succeed, despite a $100 million investment provided by the financier George Soros from 1992 to 1995. Soros argued (as American national security advisers had done throughout the Cold War) that Russian scientists were bulwarks of liberal democracy and antidotes to religious fundamentalism and mystical cults, but terminated his support when Western democracies failed to match his contributions. While citizens generally backed such measures, budget constraints did not permit policymakers to offer more than patchy responses to these problems.

The United States and other Western governments have proven more inclined to address the impact of scientific and technological developments on the global environment, seeing these threats as more immediate and more amenable to international negotiation. By the 1980s and 1990s, American leaders began playing active roles in negotiating treaties that sought to mitigate the effects of industrial and military byproducts in the environment, including efforts to maintain biodiversity, to reduce the destruction of ultraviolet-shielding stratospheric ozone, and to limit the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that heightened global warming. In certain respects these treaties resembled the 1963 Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which limited the global spread of radioactive fallout. Like the much earlier Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, these also sought to employ the best scientific knowledge available to address an evident problem, and they were controversial in their day. But these late twentieth-century treaties were profoundly different from their predecessors in several ways: they posed major economic and national security questions at the highest levels of government, they involved the full-time work of large numbers of scientists and policymakers, and they addressed issues intensely familiar to citizens (by 1989, 80 percent of Americans had heard of global warming). They were also multilateral treaties rather than bilateralas most earlier international environmental treaties had beenthus reflecting the growing influence of the United Nations as a force in international science policy. In the mid-1990s the Clinton administration, aware that a majority of Americans backed these efforts (and believing, as historian Samuel P. Hays has argued, that they reflected deep-rooted American values about the environment), explicitly declared its support for environmental diplomacy. The Clinton administration also suggested that environmental degradation could lead to political and social stress, even major instability, and thus became the first to publicly argue that water rights disputes and overfishing were as significant in foreign policy as traditional issues of ideology, commerce, and immigration.

By the beginning of the twenty-first century, U.S. willingness to take part in the postCold War framework of international science-based treaties appeared to wane. During his first six months in office, President George W. Bush signaled his intention to take a more unilateral stance, refusing to sign the Kyoto Accord on global warming while backing away from the 1996 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and a pact designed to enforce an international ban on biological weapons (which powerful U.S. biotech groups had opposed, fearing the loss of trade secrets). In the early summer of 2001 Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld voiced willingness to "cast away" the 1972 antiballistic missile treaty, the bedrock of mutually assured destruction that had guided U.S. nuclear weapons policy throughout the Cold War era. These actions are a reminder that conservative concerns about limiting American power and the political unreliability of scientists have not faded. Yet these efforts ought not be taken as a sign of a major reorientation of the role of science and technology within U.S. foreign policy. The growth of an international framework for science and technology was largely determined by events beyond the control of the American people, who remain part of an international science and technological community more extensive than many realize. Constituencies for this system, within scientific community and within Congress and bureaucracy, are large. As with environmental values within the United States, global approaches to environmental regulation have gained favor with a significant portion of the U.S. population, and will remain a driving force in setting U.S. foreign policy.


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See also Environmental Diplomacy; Nuclear Strategy and Diplomacy; Outer Space; Philanthropy.


"In the world of science America has come of age in the decade immediately preceding the second world war. Before this time, basic science was largely a European monopoly and Americans trained either in this country or abroad had large stores of accumulated ideas and facts on which to draw when building new industries or promoting new processes. The automobile, for example, was engineered from basic ideas many of which went back to Newton and the radio industry has developed from the late nineteenth century theories and experiments of Maxwell and Hertz. Unfortunately the technological advancements of the last war, extended as they were by every means possible, appear to have largely exhausted developments latent in the present store of basic knowledge. This means that, unless steps are taken, the technological development of really new industries will gradually become more difficult and that in time a general leveling off in progress will take place. The implication of this for America and particularly for American foreign policy could be quite serious for, if such a plateau is reached, other countries, such as Russia, could presumably catch up with or even surpass us in production and hence in military potential. The consequences of such an altered balance are not difficult to foresee. Competent American scientists have recognized this dilemma for some time and have consequently come to believe that efforts must be made to stimulate basic science throughout the world in order that subsequent development either in America or elsewhere will have something on which to feed."

R. Gordon Arneson, U.S. Department of State, Secret Memorandum, 2 February 1950 (declassified 22 July 1998)


"Historically, the major responsibility for intelligence in the United States, both during war and peace, has rested upon the military agencies of the government. Since World War II, intelligence has assumed a far greater peacetime role than heretofore and has had an increasing influence upon foreign policy decisions.

"In the overall utilization of intelligence in the policy making areas of the Department [of State], there appears to be too little recognition of the enormous present and future importance of scientific intelligence. In the past, military and political factors, and more recently economic considerations, have been the controlling elements in estimating the capabilities and intentions of foreign powers. Now, however, an increasingly important consideration in any such assessment is the scientific progress of the country concerned. For example, the determining factor in a decision by the U.S.S.R. either to make war or to resort to international political blackmail may well be the state of its scientific and technological development in weapons of mass destruction. It is therefore imperative that, in the Department, the scientific potential and technical achievements of the Soviet Union and their implications be integrated with the other elements of a balanced intelligence estimate for foreign policy determination."

Lloyd Berkner, Report of the International Science Policy Survey Group (Secret), 18 April 1950 (declassified 22 July 1998)

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Science and Technology


With the notable exception of Israel, science and technology in the Middle East is at an embryonic stage, especially when compared to the West. Whether and how it develops will depend largely on politics and economics in each country and in the area.

The science and technology systems in most Middle Eastern countries are, with two exceptions, similar to those in other developing countries. Israel, whose system is akin to that of industrial countries, is the major exception. The other is Afghanistan, which has not yet established a scientific infrastructure.

Most Middle Eastern countries are primarily interested in applying science and technology for development. Some have sought to acquire capabilities in defense technologies but have been only partially successful. Israel alone has succeeded in applying technology for developmental and military purposes.

With the exception of Israel, information on professional manpower and science-related institutions in all countries is limited.

Manpower Development

Governments of the region have long recognized the importance of professional manpower to national development and have consequently devoted considerable efforts and resources to the provision of higher education. During the early 1950s, most countries except for Egypt and Israel suffered from shortages of professional manpower. These shortages have today been overcome everywhere in the region except Afghanistan.

Substantial numbers of engineers and scientists are now available. The Arab countries are in the lead, with a total of some 600,000 engineers. The figures on research and development (R&D) scientific manpower, though incomplete and fragmentary, are as follows: Egypt (1986), 21,000; Iran (1985), 3,200; Israel (1984), 20,000; Turkey (1985), 11,300. These countries also had a substantial number of university professors: Egypt (1988), 33,000; Algeria (1988), 14,000; Morocco (1989), 7,000; Iraq (1986), 4,600; Saudi Arabia (1988), 10,000; Syria (1986), 5,000; Iran (1988), 14,000; Turkey (1989), 31,000.

Graduate level education and postdoctoral specialization in the basic and applied sciences are still dependent on foreign study.

Despite large numbers of scientists and engineers, the science and technology systems in most countries suffer from a lack of articulation: higher education is not integrated with demand. Moreover, continuing and distance education is still underdeveloped. Consequently, there is an inability to adapt and upgrade manpower skills in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

Israel, by contrast, depends heavily on educated immigrants. Its universities are of high quality, and effective systems of continuing and distance education have been introduced.

Research & Development

R&D in Israel is at the same level as those of leading industrial countries. It publishes about 10,000 papers a year in refereed journals surveyed by the Institute of Scientific Information (ISI) in Philadelphia. Its per capita publication output compares favorably with that of the United States, and the profile of its publications is similar to that of other industrial countries.

Israeli researchers circulate in and receive funding and support from European and American research establishments. A considerable proportion of Israeli R&D is directed toward weapons systems; but Israel also has strong research programs in most scientific and technological fields of relevance to its economy. It devotes about 3 percent of its gross national product (GNP) to R&D, and currently has about 50,000 research scientists. Its heavy emphasis on military technology is, however, causing serious economic problems as a result of the current collapse of the world demand for weaponry.

The scientific output of the Arab countries can be compared favorably with that of Brazil and India, the leading developing countries. During the 1980s, the number of scientific publications per million inhabitants was 18 (Brazil), 16 (India), and 15 (the Arab world). The per capita output of the Arab countries is some 2 percent that of industrial countries. In 1990, there were more than 5,000 publications from 700 Arab institutions. Half of these were from 12 institutions, 11 of which were universities. Other institutions involved in publishing were hospitals and agricultural research stations.

R&D in the Arab countries is overwhelmingly of an applied nature. Thirty-eight percent of publications are in medicine; 20 percent in agriculture; 17 percent in engineering; 17 percent in the basic sciences; and 8 percent in economics and management. Even work that is classified as basic science is often of an applied nature. The three leading countries in order of research output are Egypt (37 percent), Saudi Arabia (20 percent), and Kuwait (12 percent). In 1990, Kuwaiti output had started to approach that of European countries.

Publications from Iran and Turkey are on a more limited scale; their output in 1990 was 161 and 1,300, respectively. The number of publishing institutions was 80 (Iran) and 155 (Turkey).

The profile of publications from Iran and Turkey, like that in the Arab countries, emphasizes traditional and applied fields such as medicine and agriculture; the proportion of publications in the basic sciences, molecular biology, information sciences, and other advanced areas is far below international levels.

The exact funding of R&D in the Arab world, Iran, and Turkey is not accurately known; it is estimated, however, to be below 1.0 percent (probably closer to 0.5 percent) of GNP throughout the region.

Institutional Framework

The capacity to apply science and technology is dependent on the prevailing institutional framework rather than on the actual number of professionals. Most of the countries have some form of institution to manage science and technology: ministries of science and technology or directorates, attached to the ministry of higher education, of planning, or to the prime minister, which are responsible for different aspects of science and technology.

But the pervasive nature of science and technology is still not recognized, and these institutions are generally bureaucratic and inflexible; they tend to regard science and technology as being restricted to R&D and manpower.

Once again, Israel is the exception; it has established an effective and comprehensive system of science policy planning and management.

The Application of Science and Technology

Some of the instruments through which science and technology are developed and applied are: consulting and contracting organizations, agricultural research stations, extension programs, hospitals, industrial firms, testing laboratories, information services, and others.

Most countries have organizations to provide these services that vary in competence and efficiency. A brief description follows of two strategic types of organizations.

Consulting organizations are critical instruments for planning and designing new projects and for adapting and transferring technology. A substantial number of state-run and private consulting firms have been established throughout the region. In fact, one of the largest international consulting firms in developing countries is Lebanese (Dar al-Hanadasa [Shair & Partners]). Large public-sector consulting firms are found in most countries of the region.

Consulting firms are heavily oriented toward civil engineering technologies, with the result that the region is still dependent on the importation of consulting services in industrial technology.

Contracting organizations bring together ideas, plans, materials, equipment, labor, and financing to produce the desired products within an agreed schedule and cost. The largest contracting firms in the region are in Turkey, whose government has provided them with the necessary financial, risk cover, and diplomatic support.

There are around 100,000 Arab contracting firms, but the Arab countries still depend on foreign firms for 50 percent of their requirements. This is largely due to the absence of appropriate public policies. The leading Arab contracting companies are privately owned and based in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

National Science Policies

Israel is the only country in the region with the capacity to design and implement science and technology policies. In the rest of the region, national, regional, and international organizations have sought to promote the development of capabilities in science policy formation, but the results have been limited. This is due to the prevalence of preindustrial political cultures, which have made science policy formation difficult, if not impossible.

As of the mid-1990s there were increasing indications that Turkey would soon acquire an industrial political economy. When it does so, it will be capable of formulating and implementing science policies.

The colonial legacy of the region has led to the virtual elimination of intersectoral linkages and has resulted in the vertical integration of the components of a fragmented economy into foreign sources of technology. This situation has prevented the acquisition and accumulation of technological experiences, which in turn has reduced the chances of a transition to an industrial political economy.

The combination of underused capabilities and unexpected developments could lead the way to technology change. For example, the heavy bombing of Iraq, coupled with the stringent economic blockade, has forced the mobilization of Iraq's considerable capabilities in science and technology, which had previously been marginalized. A massive reconstruction of the country has consequently taken place. The same example applied to Iran during the 1980s.

Different countries in the region may discover how to mobilize their considerable professional scientific and technological manpower after other alternatives are no longer available. These challenges could induce changes in the political culture, which in turn could result in new attitudes toward science and technology.


ALESCO. Strategy for the Development of Science and Technology in the Arab World. Tunis, 1987. English version available.

Institute of Scientific Information. Science Citation Index. Philadelphia: Author, 19701991 (monthly).

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Main Science and Technology Indicators. Paris: Author, 1992 (biannual).

UNESCO. UNESCO's Yearbook. Paris, 19701991 (annual).

Zahlan, A. B. The Arab Construction Industry: Acquiring Technological Capacity. Basingstoke, U.K.: Macmillan, 1991.

Zahlan, A. B. Science and Science Policy in the Arab World. London: Croom Helm, 1980.

antoine benjamin zahlan

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Science and Technology

Science and Technology


A Useful Art. In 1835 Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America that the social conditions and institutions of democracy prepare [Americans] to seek immediate and useful practical results of the sciences. The desire of scientists to promote their profession as a useful art rather than a purely theoretical discipline led to efforts to join the forces of scientific and technological innovation. Technological innovation had remained largely in the hands of artisans and mechanics, but the increasing sophistication of machinery and the demands of an industrializing society made cooperation with scientists both necessary and desirable. One important example of scientific influence on technological development was the research of Princeton scientist Joseph Henry into the principles of electromagnetism. The principles that Henry detailed in his work made it possible for Samuel F. B. Morse to develop an effective telegraph in 1837 and also proved fundamental to the development of electrical motors later in the century.

The Franklin Institute. By 1824 the democratic spirit of the age, together with the desire to promote concerted efforts between scientists and mechanical innovators, led to the founding of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Designed to bring together well-educated gentlemen scientists and working-class artisans and mechanics, the institute began as an educational enterprise. In addition to providing a scientific curriculum for the workers and holding annual exhibitions of their inventions, the institute published a journal designed to communicate useful scientific information in a manner that skilled but relatively uneducated workers could comprehend. The institute quickly attained a sound financial footing, a substantial membership, and a strong circulation for its journal.

Engineering Profession. The Franklin Institute did not, however, succeed in bridging the class differences between artisans and mechanics on the one hand and scientists on the other. Instead it contributed to the rise of the engineer, a new kind of professional who combined both scientific education and mechanical skill. The Franklin Institute was the most famous of similar institutions established in the 1820s and 1830s that led to the establishment of the engineering profession. For example, in 1824 (the same year that the Franklin Institute was founded) Stephen Van Rensselaer established a school in upstate New York for the purpose of instructing persons .. . in the application of science to the common purposes of life. That school would eventually become Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Engineers had already begun to make their presence felt by the early 1830s, having contributed to the design and construction of an elaborate system of canals in the Northeast, of which the Erie Canal, opened in 1825, was the most famous. Engineers would go on to make significant contributions to the application of steam power to printing and manufacturing, the improvement of locomotive technology, and the construction of roads and bridges.


David Freeman Hawke, Nuts and Bolts of the Past: A History of American Technology, 1776-1860 (New York: Harper ScRow, 1988).

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