IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m trying to learn for my History class and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m stuck. Can you help?
Having more money and resources being allocated for scientific research and development is, generally, a good thing. Why have scientists and politicians in the US worried so much about science getting Ã¢â‚¬Å“bigÃ¢â‚¬Â? What were the implications for the universities, pedagogy, and the students?
1. Please use your responses as a place to start off your reflections on the topic of the week. What are other questions that came to your mind as you proceeded with your reading, listening and viewing of the materials in that week? Try to make connections between the lectures, the readings and the films. The more effort you make in putting these different materials in conversation with each other the better.
2. No formal citations are required but quotations from the readings to illustrate your points are welcome (make sure, however, to
not use quotes as a
for your own wording). Making interesting connections and observations weaving together different ideas from different sources is the best strategy to write an interesting and engaging journal throughout the course, which not only will receive a high weekly grade but also prove helpful for your final paper in this course.
3. A note on expressing your own opinions: your opinions on, for instance, whether a certain development was “right” or “wrong”, or good or bad one, are welcome. However, you should make sure to substantiate your opinions with text-based evidence drawn from the materials in this course. Explain what stood out for you in this week’s materials, and why. Please be specific and cite different materials assigned for this week.
Cold War requisitions, scientific manpower, and the production of
American physicists after World War II
1. RAYMOND BIRGEÃ¢â‚¬â„¢S Ã¢â‚¬Å“MAIN OBJECTIVEÃ¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“THE MAIN OBJECTIVE of this department of physics,Ã¢â‚¬Â Raymond Birge wrote in
late May 1955, Ã¢â‚¬Å“is to train Ph.D.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s in physics.Ã¢â‚¬Â BirgeÃ¢â‚¬â€iconic, somber, a displaced
Yankee who traced his New England ancestry nine generations backÃ¢â‚¬â€had been
chair of BerkeleyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s physics department for twenty-two years; by the mid-1950s, it
was the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s largest. At the time he explained his departmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“main objective,Ã¢â‚¬Â Birge was the retiring president of the American Physical Society (APS).
Birge and his colleagues in BerkeleyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s physics department had emphasized the
importance of its graduate program many times before in annual budget requests
to the university administration and in funding reports to private industries; it would
be easy to read such remarks as thinly-veiled requests for more funding, since
training physics Ph.D.s became expensive after World War II. This time, however,
Birge articulated his departmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mission in a letter to a local citizen, far outside
of the university bureaucracy, who had no funds to offer and who had requested no
*Program in Science, Technology, and Society, and Department of Physics, Building E51185, MIT, Cambridge, MA 02139; firstname.lastname@example.org.
My thanks to Shane Hamilton for his research assistance, and to Alexis De Greiff,
Kenji Ito, John Krige, Elizabeth Paris, and John Rudolph for their helpful comments on an
The following abbreviations are used: AIP-EMD, American Institute of Physics, Education and Manpower Division Records, Niels Bohr Library, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD; BAS, Bulletin of the atomic scientists; BDP, University of California,
Berkeley, Department of Physics Records, Bancroft Library, Berkeley, CA; HDP, Harvard
University Department of Physics Records, Pusey Library, Cambridge, MA; PDP, Princeton
University Department of Physics Records, Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton,
NJ; PDP-AR, Princeton University Department of Physics Annual Reports, Seeley G. Mudd
Manuscript Library, Princeton, NJ; PT, Physics today; RTB, Raymond Thayer Birge Correspondence and Papers, Bancroft Library, Berkeley, CA.
1. Birge to William M. Roth, 31 May 1955, in BDP, Folder 5:143. BirgeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s ancestry was
HSPS, Volume 33, Part 1, pages 131-159. ISSN 0890-9997. Ã‚Â©2002 by The Regents of the University
of California. All rights reserved. Send requests for permission to reprint to Rights and Permissions,
University of California Press, 2000 Center St., Ste. 303, Berkeley, CA 94704-1223.
Nor was BirgeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s letter unique in its emphasis upon the graduate training of
young physicists. In a survey of 1954, the Berkeley physicists claimed to spend
only 10-15% of their time on undergraduate instruction, but 40-95% on teaching
graduate students. Yet even that seemed insufficient: the new department chair,
Carl Helmholz, circulated a memo to the department faculty in December 1958
reminding his colleagues that Ã¢â‚¬Å“Although research per se is important, the fundamental concern of the department is the education of studentsÃ¢â‚¬ÂÃ¢â‚¬â€and, lest there be
any doubt, Ã¢â‚¬Å“the graduate student class is the one which we should consider most
seriously.Ã¢â‚¬Â2 The Ã¢â‚¬Å“productionÃ¢â‚¬Â of trained physicistsÃ¢â‚¬â€BirgeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“main objective,Ã¢â‚¬Â but
a theme largely overlooked by historians of scienceÃ¢â‚¬â€became a central, at times
hysterial concern for American physicists and politicians during the decades after
World War II.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Big scienceÃ¢â‚¬Â has usually been considered along two axes: funding and the
scale of experimental apparatus.3 Both the source and the scale of funding for scientific research changed dramatically with World War II. By 1953, the level of
spending for Ã¢â‚¬Å“fundamentalÃ¢â‚¬Â physics research within the United States was 20 to 25
times greater than it had been in 1938, even after adjusting for inflation, and the
noted in Yvonne Young (BirgeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s secretary) to Larkin Kerwin (President of the Canadian
Association of Physicists), 24 May 1955, in RTB. A. Carl Helmholz, who became department chair in 1956, pleaded with BerkeleyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s chancellor in a 1956 budget request that Ã¢â‚¬Å“we
have an obligation and an increasing need to train more Ph.D.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s in physics and this does
require research money.Ã¢â‚¬Â Helmholz to Clark Kerr, 28 Mar 1956, in BDP, Folder 1:20. See
also Helmholz to Kerr, 5 Mar 1958, in BDP, Folder 1:28, and Helmholz to Glenn Seaborg,
6 Mar 1959, in BDP, Folder 1:29.
2. See BirgeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s summary on Ã¢â‚¬Å“Form 2A (Academic year): Percentage distribution of time of
faculty members among services performed for academic year, 1953-1954,Ã¢â‚¬Â completed as
part of the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Restudy of the needs of California in higher education, 1954.Ã¢â‚¬Â BirgeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s report,
dated 2 June 1954, is in BDP, Folder 1:15, along with data for individual faculty members;
A.C. Helmholz, mimeographed agenda, 8 Dec 1958, in BDP, Folder 2:2.
3. Derek de Solla Price, Little science, big science (New York, 1963); Alvin Weinberg,
Reflections on big science (Cambridge, 1967); Daniel J. Kevles, The physicists: The history
of a scientific community in modern America, 3rd edn. (Cambridge, 1995 ), chapts.
21-23; Robert Seidel, Ã¢â‚¬Å“A home for big science: The Atomic Energy CommissionÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s laboratory system,Ã¢â‚¬Â HSPS, 16:1 (1985), 135-175; Paul Forman, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Behind quantum electronics:
National security as basis for physical research in the United States, 1940-1960,Ã¢â‚¬Â HSPS,
18:1ÃƒÅ (1987), 149-229; Everett Mendelsohn, M. Roe Smith, and Peter Weingart, eds., Science, technology, and the military (Boston, 1988); Peter Galison and Bruce Hevly, eds., Big
science: The growth of large-scale research (Stanford, 1992); James Capshew and Karen
Rader, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Big science: Price to the present,Ã¢â‚¬Â Osiris, 7 (1992), 3-25; Stuart Leslie, The Cold
War and American science: The military-industrial-academic complex at MIT and Stanford
(New York, 1993); Andrew Pickering, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Cyborg history and the World War II regime,Ã¢â‚¬Â Perspectives on Science, 3 (Spring 1995), 1-48; and Peter Galison, Image and logic: A material
culture of microphysics (Chicago, 1997), esp. chapts. 4, 5, and 9. Many patterns for what
became postwar big science had precedents during the interwar period at BerkeleyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Radiation Laboratory; J.L. Heilbron and Robert Seidel, Lawrence and his laboratory: A history of
the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Vol. 1 (Berkeley, 1989).
TRAINING AMERICAN PHYSICISTS
vast majority of this spending came from defense-related agencies within the federal government.4 This outpouring of defense dollars paid for instruments and equipment on an unprecedented scale.
Yet there was a third axis of Ã¢â‚¬Å“bignessÃ¢â‚¬Â that rarely appears in these accounts:
big enrollments of graduate students in the sciences. The number of new physics
doctorates granted each year within the United States ballooned immediately after
the war, growing at a faster rate than any other field. The growth in graduatestudent enrollments took on an explicitly political formulation. Some physicists
and government bureaucrats advanced a Cold War logic according to which the
training of exponentially-increasing numbers of professional physicists was used
to justify all the other Ã¢â‚¬Å“bigÃ¢â‚¬Â expenditures commonly associated with Ã¢â‚¬Å“big science.Ã¢â‚¬Â
For others, graduate-student training assumed equal importance with the other
Ã¢â‚¬Å“bigs.Ã¢â‚¬Â For more than two decades after World War II, most physicists, government officials, and nationally-syndicated journalists equated the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s security
with the production of young physicists. Most American physicists did not spend
the bulk of their time working on weapons during the 1950s. Yet they received
money from defense-related bureaus to create an Ã¢â‚¬Å“elite reserve labor forceÃ¢â‚¬Â of
potential weapons-makers in the ranks.5
The Cold War logic of wartime requisitions and physicist-manpower points to
a less overt, yet longer-lasting form of politicization for the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s physicists
than those usually considered by historians. More was at stake than the visible
signs of American physicistsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ political engagement after World War II, either as
elite government consultants or as special victims of McCarthyism.6 The demands
for physicist-manpower were tied directly to the contours of the Cold War, rising
immediately after the war, receiving a strong jolt with the United StatesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ entry into
the Korean War and again after the surprise launch of Sputnik, and crashing only
with dÃƒÂ©tente, Vietnam-era protests against defense-related research on campuses,
and massive cuts in defense spending.
Questions of pedagogy and scientific Ã¢â‚¬Å“manpowerÃ¢â‚¬Â provide a framework within
which to re-examine the vexed question of whether the sudden sea-change in source
and scale of funding matter to the content of postwar physics. Did military-derived
Ã¢â‚¬Å“big scienceÃ¢â‚¬Â leave a lasting epistemic impression? The question can be addressed
from the everyday exigencies of training students and pursuing research. The manpower question also allows consideration of the effects of the Cold War mobilization on theoretical physics, and not only on the experimental physics with which
most previous literature on Ã¢â‚¬Å“big scienceÃ¢â‚¬Â is concerned. The new demands for training
ever-rising numbers of students helped to solidify American physicistsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ style of
work after the war. PhysicistsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ attitudes and judgments about what counted as ap4. Forman (ref. 3), 190.
5. Cf. Chandra Mukerji, A fragile power: Scientists and the state (Princeton, 1989), chapt.
1. Mukerji focuses on oceanographers in the 1980s. For physics in Cold War Europe, cf.
John Krige, Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Ford Foundation, European physics, and the Cold War,Ã¢â‚¬Â HSPS, 29:2 (1999),
333-361, and Ã¢â‚¬Å“NATO and the strengthening of Western science in the post-Sputnik era,Ã¢â‚¬Â
Minerva, 38 (2000), 81-108.
propriate topics for research and teaching make most sense when set within the
context of the postwar escalation in manpower.
2. THE POPULATION EXPLOSION
Yale University became the first domestic institution to grant a Ph.D. in physics, when it bestowed one on Arthur Williams Wright in 1861 for his study of
orbital mechanics. One thousand physics Ph.D.s followed between 1861 and 1929,
while just over fourteen hundred were produced during the decade 1930-1940
alone, despite Depression conditions (figure 1).7
FIG. 1 Total number of Ph.D.s in physics granted each calendar year by U.S. institutions, 1890-1941.
Source: Based on data in Adkins (ref. 7), 278-281.
Based on similar growth in research funding, pages published in the professional
journals, and membership in the professional societies during the 1930s, Spencer
Weart has suggested that the postwar expansion of American physics had its roots
not initially in World War II but rather in the prewar decade. Surveying the period
6. Kevles (ref. 3), chapts. 22-23; Ellen Schrecker, No ivory tower: McCarthyism and the universities (New York, 1986), 149-160, 272-275; Jessica Wang, American science in an age of
anxiety: Scientists, anticommunism, and the Cold War (Chapel Hill, 1999); Silvan Schweber,
In the shadow of the bomb: Oppenheimer, Bethe, and the moral responsibility of the scientist
(Princeton, 2000); David Kaiser, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Nuclear democracy: Political engagement, pedagogical reform, and particle physics in postwar America,Ã¢â‚¬Â Isis, 93 (June 2002), 229-268.
7. M. Lois Marckworth, Dissertations in physics: An indexed bibliography of all doctoral
theses accepted by American universities, 1861-1959 (Stanford, 1961), ix-xi. Figure 1 is
based on data from Douglas Adkins, The great American degree machine: An economic
analysis of the human resource output of higher education (Berkeley, 1975), 278-81.AdkinsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢
TRAINING AMERICAN PHYSICISTS
1920-70, Weart concludes, provides an overall Ã¢â‚¬Å“impression of continuity.Ã¢â‚¬Â The
war, on this telling, cemented pre-existing exponential growth trends for the Ã¢â‚¬Å“physics
businessÃ¢â‚¬Â in the United States.8
Growth during the 1930s, however, proved to be but a shadow of the growth to
come. As figure 2 reveals, the postwar boom in physics Ph.D.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s made a dramatic
break with the past in both absolute numbers and rates of change.9
FIG. 2 Total number of Ph.D.s in physics granted each calendar year by U.S. institutions, 1890-1979.
Source: Based on data in Adkins (ref. 7), 278-281, and National Research Council (ref. 9), 79.
Averaged over the period 1890-1941, the annual number of Ph.D.s granted in physics
by U.S. institutions doubled steadily every thirteen years; the corresponding number for 1945-71, is seven years, nearly twice as fast (Appendix tables A.1 and A.2).
Though the overall number of new physics Ph.D.s continued to grow throughout
the Depression, the rate slowed considerably: at the rate of increase during 193039, it would have taken eighteen years to double the annual output of physics
doctorates. The immediate postwar years, on the other hand, saw lightning growth:
between 1945-51, the number of physics Ph.D.s awarded annually by U.S. institutions doubled every 1.7 yearsÃ¢â‚¬â€a rate increase of over tenfold. During the mid1950s, with the number of new physics Ph.D.s per year fluctuating around 500, it
numbers agree to within 10% of MarckworthÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s as well as with the data in Spencer Weart,
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The physics business in America, 1919-1940: A statistical reconnaissance,Ã¢â‚¬Â in Nathan
Reingold, ed., The sciences in American context: New perspectives (Washington, D.C.,
8. Weart (ibid.), 330.
9. Adkins (ref. 7), 278-81 for 1890-1971, and in National Research Council, Postdoctoral
appointments and disappointments (Washington, D.C., 1981), 79, for 1972-79. The data for
1960-71 in these two sources always agree to better than 8% and usually to within 2%.
took only two years to produce as many as the United States had produced during
the seventy years separating the Civil War and the Great Depression. Following
the SovietsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ surprise launch of Sputnik in the fall of 1957, the number of Ph.D.s in
physics awarded by U.S. institutions took off steeply once again, doubling every
6.2 years during the period 1958-68 (tables A.3 and A.4).
During the 1950s and 1960s, the tremendous and rapid growth in American
physics departments resulted in lack of office space, overcrowded laboratory conditions, proliferation of new bureaucratic procedures, a widespread feelings of
Ã¢â‚¬Å“facelessness,Ã¢â‚¬Â and a perilous loss of Ã¢â‚¬Å“intimacy.Ã¢â‚¬Â Routine social events, such as
the annual picnics of BerkeleyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s physics department, became logistically exhausting affairs.10 The frequent complaints about overcrowding, from both students and
faculty, may explain the flattening of the physics Ph.D.-curve during the 1950s
despite strong demand. Enrollments had swollen to over three times their prewar
highs, far faster than the departmentsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ faculties and physical plant. Despite a boom
in new physics buildings and building extensions, department chairs across the
country complained bitterly about their lack of adequate space.11 The next dramatic rise in the annual output of physics Ph.D.s, after Sputnik, was accomplished
primarily by increasing the number of doctoral institutions, rather than by squeezing more students into the existing graduate programs: the number of institutions
granting Ph.D.s in physics within the United States doubled between 1959 and
1967.12 The number of physics Ph.D.s granted each year jumped by a factor of
three, to over 1,500 by the late 1960s.
These trends may be compared usefully with the more general expansion in
American higher education over the course of the 20th century. Between 1890 and
1941, the rate of increase in physics Ph.D.s awarded each year was 87% of the
growth-rate averaged across all fields; between 1945 and 1951, on the other hand,
the factor was 200%. No other field came close: physics grew nearly twice as
quickly as chemistry, for example, and fully 12% faster than its nearest competitors, engineering and psychology. During the 1950s, most fields, like physics, settled
into a steady state. Exponential growth resumed across the boards following Sputnik. Although the margin had shrunk compared with the immediate postwar period, physics once again outpaced all fields in its rate of growth except for engineering and mathematics.13
Demand for new physics Ph.D.s far outstripped the ever-increasing supply.
The Placement Service of the American Institute of Physics (AIP) reported in 1952
10. David Kaiser, Ã¢â‚¬Å“The postwar suburbanization of American physics,Ã¢â‚¬Â in Kaiser, Making
theory: Producing physics and physicists in postwar America (Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard
University, 2000), 57-112.
12. Kevles (ref. 3), 388.
13. The Ã¢â‚¬Å“baby boomÃ¢â‚¬Â powered the general expansion: the class that entered college in 1964
was the largest ever, up 37% from the previous year alone. Todd Gitlin, The sixties: Years of
hope, days of rage, rev. edn. [New York, 1993 (1987)], 11-21, 164. BerkeleyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s physics
department chair cited enrollment projections as early as 1959 as a reason to begin increas-
TRAINING AMERICAN PHYSICISTS
that Ã¢â‚¬Å“for three years running the number of positions to be filled has been several
times the number of available registrants.Ã¢â‚¬Â14 A decade later, only 449 physicists
registered with the Placement Service at a meeting of the American Physical Society, at which various employers had hoped to fill 514 jobs.15 A senior researcher
noted in 1970 that through most of the 1950s and 1960s, Ã¢â‚¬Å“most, if not all, doctoral
or masterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s candidates [in physics and engineering] could obtain as many job offers as he or she was willing to take interviews.Ã¢â‚¬Â16 Who wanted these physicists?
For what were they being trained?
3. FROM Ã¢â‚¬Å“MARKETSÃ¢â‚¬Â TO Ã¢â‚¬Å“MANPOWERÃ¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“A going concern must find a market for its product,Ã¢â‚¬Â Daniel Elliott explained
to his colleagues in the pages of the American physics teacher in 1938, Ã¢â‚¬Å“and this is
true of the profession of physics.Ã¢â‚¬Â As another physics teacher put it in the mid1930s, Ã¢â‚¬Å“We folks in the teaching business have a product to sell.Ã¢â‚¬Â17 Philip Morse
described the vigorous Ã¢â‚¬Å“sales effortÃ¢â‚¬Â that people like Karl Compton and Robert
Millikan, then presidents of MIT and Caltech respectively, had to mount during
the 1930s to help place the newly-minted physics Ph.D.s in industrial jobs, since
university positions had become scarce in proportion to the number of graduate
students.18 American physicists in the Great Depression discussed the fruits of
their pedagogical effortsÃ¢â‚¬â€the growing numbers of men and the small trickle of
women who earned advanced degrees in physicsÃ¢â‚¬â€in terms of Ã¢â‚¬Å“sales,Ã¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“markets,Ã¢â‚¬Â
and, above all, Ã¢â‚¬Å“products.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The commodity terminology shifted following the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s economic recovery
and experience in World War II. When invoked after the war, Ã¢â‚¬Å“commodityÃ¢â‚¬Â connoted rationing and conservation of a precious resource. Ã¢â‚¬Å“In a time of national
emergency,Ã¢â‚¬Â opined AIP director Henry Barton in December 1948, Ã¢â‚¬Å“this country
would think nothing of spending a million dollars to survey, develop, and conserve
a short commodity like natural rubber or tin. Highly trained and able human reing the departmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s faculty and overall budget in anticipation of the baby boom: Helmholz
to Glenn Seaborg, 6 Mar 1959, in BDP, Folder 1:29.
14. Henry Barton, Ã¢â‚¬Å“AIP 1952 annual report,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 6 (May 1953), 4-9, on 6.
15. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Placement register statistical comparison, APS-AAPT Annual Joint Meeting, 1963 to
1969,Ã¢â‚¬Â n.d., ca. 1970, in AIP-EMD, Box 13, Folder, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Placement literature.Ã¢â‚¬Â
16. Russell G. Meyerand, Jr.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s remarks at the conference on Ã¢â‚¬Å“The supply, need, and utilization of graduate scientists and engineersÃ¢â‚¬Â (May 1970) are quoted in Sanborn Brown and
Brian Schwartz, eds., Scientific manpower: A dilemma for graduate education (Cambridge,
1971), 47-48. Meyerand was the Director of Research at United Aircraft Research Laboratories.
17. Daniel Elliott, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Some economic aspects of physics,Ã¢â‚¬Â American physics teacher, 6 (1938),
198; Wheeler Davey, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Report of Conference on Applied Physics,Ã¢â‚¬Â Review of scientific instruments, 7 (1936), 119, both as quoted in Weart (ref. 7), 318-319, 352n111.
18. Philip Morse, In at the beginnings: A physicistÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s life (Cambridge, 1977), 134; H.A.
Barton, interview with Charles Weiner, 3 and 16 Mar 1970, 17-8, 38-39, 44, 54 (Niels Bohr
Library, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD).
sources, viewed as a commodity, are far more important.Ã¢â‚¬Â Two years later, AEC
Commissioner and former Princeton physics department chair Henry DeWolf Smyth
explained in a speech before the American Association for the Advancement of
Science that Ã¢â‚¬Å“scientific manpowerÃ¢â‚¬Â was a Ã¢â‚¬Å“war commodity,Ã¢â‚¬Â a Ã¢â‚¬Å“tool of war,Ã¢â‚¬Â and a
Ã¢â‚¬Å“major war asset,Ã¢â‚¬Â and hence needed to be Ã¢â‚¬Å“stockpiledÃ¢â‚¬Â and Ã¢â‚¬Å“rationed.Ã¢â‚¬Â MITÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s
Dean of the Sciences, George Harrison, testified before the Preparedness Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on the Armed Forces in January 1951 to the need
for the Ã¢â‚¬Å“production, conservation, and expenditureÃ¢â‚¬Â of the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s physicists.19
Just as they had before the war, Ã¢â‚¬Å“productÃ¢â‚¬Â and Ã¢â‚¬Å“productionÃ¢â‚¬Â therefore continued to dominate American physicistsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ discussions of their studentsÃ¢â‚¬â€as in the conference on Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Production of Physicists,Ã¢â‚¬Â sponsored jointly in 1955 by the National Research Council (NRC) and the AIP.20 In the postwar period, however, the
concern for Ã¢â‚¬Å“salesÃ¢â‚¬Â and Ã¢â‚¬Å“marketÃ¢â‚¬Â was replaced by a new obsession with Ã¢â‚¬Å“manpower.Ã¢â‚¬Â The federal governmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Office of Defense Mobilization issued policy
statements during the Korean conflict on Ã¢â‚¬Å“Training and utilization of scientific
and engineering manpower,Ã¢â‚¬Â and the Office for Naval Research maintained a
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Manpower BranchÃ¢â‚¬Â of its Human Resources Division to record how many students emerged from the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s universities with higher degrees in the sciences.
The AIP established its own Education and Manpower Division to coordinate its
efforts with the governmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s. The National Science Foundation (NSF) at the same
time began issuing annual Ã¢â‚¬Å“American Science ManpowerÃ¢â‚¬Â reports.21 The economic
metaphor gave way to a military one in consequence of the new employment realities: rather than requiring a strenuous sales effort to create jobs for their students,
physicists after World War II struggled to graduate advanced degree-holders in
physics quickly enough to meet Cold War demands.
Fellowships, training, and the draft before the Korean War
The first postwar graduate students often cited their wartime service as an inducement for pursuing a Ph.D. in physics. Ã¢â‚¬Å“My interest in physics,Ã¢â‚¬Â wrote a graduate student in HarvardÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s physics department in September 1948, Ã¢â‚¬Å“was aroused
19. Henry Barton, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Institute doings,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 1 (Dec 1948): 15; Henry DeWolf Smyth, Ã¢â‚¬Å“The
stockpiling and rationing of scientific manpower,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 4 (Feb 1951), 18-24, on 19; George
Harrison, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Testimony on manpower,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 4 (Mar 1951), 6-7, on 6.
20. The conference was held in West Virginia from 31 Mar – 2 Apr 1955 and reported in the
June issue of Physics today. An unsigned report, Ã¢â‚¬Å“NRC-AIP Conference on the Production
of Physicists,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 8 (June 1955), 6-12, was followed by subcommitteesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ reports and some
of the papers presented.
21. M. Trytten, Ã¢â‚¬Å“The organization of scientific manpower: Reports of government advisory
groups,Ã¢â‚¬Â BAS, 6 (1950), 355, 375-378; the special issue devoted to Ã¢â‚¬Å“scientific manpowerÃ¢â‚¬Â
in Scientific American, 185 (Mar 1951); National Manpower Council, A policy for scientific
and professional manpower (New York, 1953); Barton, Ã¢â‚¬Å“AIP 1952 Annual Report,Ã¢â‚¬Â 5-6.
Weart cites data from the ONR Ã¢â‚¬Å“Manpower branchÃ¢â‚¬Â in Weart (ref. 7), 335n2. On the NSF
reports, see Brown and Schwartz (ref. 16), 23n1.
TRAINING AMERICAN PHYSICISTS
while I was working on the Atomic Bomb in New Mexico while in the Army.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Interest piqued, the Ã¢â‚¬Å“promise of money to come from the G.I. BillÃ¢â‚¬Â helped to seal
this studentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s decision to pursue a Ph.D. The studentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s reminiscences were drawn
out by an anonymous questionnaire that greeted the 83 Harvard physics graduate
students who had completed at least one year of graduate study as they queued up
for registration in 1948. Over one-quarter of those who returned the questionnaire
mentioned wartime service experiences as an inducement to study physics. One
peer put it simply: Ã¢â‚¬Å“The war introduced me to the scientific life.Ã¢â‚¬Â Another mentioned a Ã¢â‚¬Å“feeling that the work [in physics] was important as a result of the war.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Two-thirds of the returning physics graduate students had served in the military
during World War II. Several mentioned the aid provided by the G.I. Bill among
the many factors which had prompted them to pursue a Ph.D. in physics.22
The Cold War was an even better recruiter. Just six weeks after the end of
World War II, for example, the Scientific Panel of the Interim Committee on Atomic
Power recommended to General Leslie Groves that the Army continue to support
university physics research as a training ground for personnel to serve in various
applied-physics projectsÃ¢â‚¬â€a plan Groves quickly approved.23 Nor would these training efforts be restricted to university campuses. In March 1946, enterprising East
Coast physicists convinced Groves that the best way Ã¢â‚¬Å“to prevent disintegration of
[the ArmyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s] nuclear research organizationÃ¢â‚¬Â was to establish new laboratories at
which students could receive Ã¢â‚¬Å“advance[d] training in nuclear studiesÃ¢â‚¬ÂÃ¢â‚¬â€a pitch
that helped to found the Brookhaven Laboratory on Long Island.24
The Office of Naval Research (ONR) was explicit about its rationale for becoming, in the late 1940s, the single largest patron of Ã¢â‚¬Å“big scienceÃ¢â‚¬Â physics projects
in the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s universities. As Emanuel Piore, director of the ONRÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Physical
Sciences Division, explained, the Ã¢â‚¬Å“[m]otivation within the NavyÃ¢â‚¬Â was to make up
for the Ã¢â‚¬Å“deficit in technical peopleÃ¢â‚¬Â left in the wake of World War II, Ã¢â‚¬Å“which cost
the country one to two graduate-school generations of scientists.Ã¢â‚¬Â The ONR aimed
to Ã¢â‚¬Å“stimulateÃ¢â‚¬Â universitiesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Ã¢â‚¬Å“normal function of research and graduate instruction,Ã¢â‚¬Â
and evaluated funding proposals according to Ã¢â‚¬Å“the training possibilities the project
will afford to young men.Ã¢â‚¬Â25 Piore had phrased things differently to an advisory
22. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Opinions of returning graduate students in physics,Ã¢â‚¬Â 86-page mimeographed report,
1948, 73-82. Harvard University Archives, Pusey Library, Cambridge, Massachusetts, UAV
691.448. Approximately two million veterans took advantage of the G.I. Bill. Roger Geiger, Research and relevant knowledge: American research universities since World War II
(New York, 1993), 40-41.
23. Robert Seidel, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Accelerating science: The postwar transformation of the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory,Ã¢â‚¬Â HSPS, 13:2 (1983), 375-400, on 382-383.
24. Richard Hewlett and Oscar Anderson, Jr., The new world: A history of the Atomic Energy Commission, Vol. 1, 1939-1946 (University Park, 1962), 633-634; Allan Needell,
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Nuclear reactors and the founding of Brookhaven National Laboratory,Ã¢â‚¬Â HSPS, 14:1 (1983),
92-122; Seidel (ref. 3); Robert Crease, Making physics: A biography of Brookhaven National Laboratory, 1946-1972 (Chicago, 1999), chapts. 1-4.
25. Emanuel Piore, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Investment in basic research,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 1 (Nov 1948), 6-9, on 6-7; Richard
Hewlett and Francis Duncan, A history of the United States Atomic Energy Commission,
group to the Pentagon: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Graduate students working part time are slave labor.Ã¢â‚¬Â The
NavyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s best economic interests would be served by placing more and more of its
work with them.26 To the ONR, graduate training justified lavish spending.
The Atomic Energy Commission, founded by Congress in 1946, eventually
took over most of these Army and Navy installations, creating a coast-to-coast
national laboratory system and supporting dozens of university-based laboratories. Internal AEC memos from early 1947 reported that the CommissionÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rationale for funding all of these laboratories was, in John HeilbronÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s paraphrase, Ã¢â‚¬Å“to
train personnel for employment in the laboratories of federal agencies or their
contractorsÃ¢â‚¬â€it being supposed that university accelerator laboratories would attract the best talent and train it in ways useful to government.Ã¢â‚¬Â The AECÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s General
Advisory Committee (GAC) similarly advocated continued funding of nuclear
research at universities so as to provide training for young physicists.27 So important was the creation and maintenance of this standing army of physicists that the
AEC agreed in 1948 to fund not one but two accelerators in the billion-volt range,
at Berkeley and at Brookhaven, even though the GAC advised that only one such
machine would be needed scientifically. The AEC decided to build both machines
lest Ã¢â‚¬Å“moraleÃ¢â‚¬Â at the losing laboratory suffer. As Smyth explained in his role as
AEC Commissioner in 1949, the duplication would bring the government not just
Ã¢â‚¬Å“big equipment,Ã¢â‚¬Â but Ã¢â‚¬Å“big groups of scientists who will take orders.Ã¢â‚¬Â28 Manpower
production entailed all the other trappings of postwar big science.
In 1948, the AEC put together a program of graduate-student fellowships under the watchful eyes of the Congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. As
the CommitteeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s chair, Senator Bourke Hickenlooper (R., Iowa), remarked to the
AECÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s chair David Lilienthal in July 1948,29
It is an assumption on the part of the Joint Committee that the purpose of this
fellowship program is to establish a nucleus of highly trained individuals who
Vol. 2, Atomic shield, 1947-1952 (University Park, 1969), 80; S.S. Schweber, Ã¢â‚¬Å“The mutual
embrace of science and the military: ONR and the growth of physics in the United States
after World War II,Ã¢â‚¬Â in Mendelsohn (ref. 3), 3-45; Harvey Sapolsky, Science and the Navy:
The history of the Office of Naval Research (Princeton, 1990).
26. PioreÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s remark to the PentagonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Research and Development Board is quoted in Rebecca
Lowen, Creating the Cold War university: The transformation of Stanford (Berkeley, 1997),
27. J.L. Heilbron, Ã¢â‚¬Å“An historianÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s interest in particle physics,Ã¢â‚¬Â in Laurie Brown, Max Dresden,
and Lillian Hoddeson, eds., Pions to quarks: Particle physics in the 1950s (New York,
1989), 47-54, on 51; Seidel (ref. 23), 393. See also Robert Seidel, Ã¢â‚¬Å“The postwar political
economy of high-energy physics,Ã¢â‚¬Â in Brown et al, ibid., 497-507; Daniel Kevles, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Cold war
and hot physics: Science, security, and the American state, 1945-56,Ã¢â‚¬Â HSPS, 20:2 (1990),
239-264, and Ã¢â‚¬Å“K1S2: Korea, science, and the state,Ã¢â‚¬Â in Galison and Hevly (ref. 3), 312-333;
Schweber, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Big science in context: Cornell and MIT,Ã¢â‚¬Â in ibid., 149-183.
28. Hewlett and Duncan (ref. 25), 249-250; Seidel (ref. 23), 394-397; Smyth as quoted in
Seidel (ref. 3), 148. See also Seidel (ref. 10).
29. Hickenlooper to Lilienthal, 30 Jul 1948, reprinted in Hearings before the Joint Commit-
TRAINING AMERICAN PHYSICISTS
will increase the general knowledge in scientific fields and at the same time provide a pool from which some individuals will be drawn to active employment on
the atomic energy program.
Lilienthal agreed with this interpretation, though he emphasized in later testimony
before the Joint Committee that Ã¢â‚¬Å“no commitments as to employment are made at
the time of the fellowship award.Ã¢â‚¬Â30 After the Joint Committee learned that an
AEC fellowship had been given to a self-proclaimed Communist student, however, it tightened the rules. Applicants to the program in 1950 had to propose topics of research Ã¢â‚¬Å“sufficiently related to the atomic energy field to justify presuming
that the candidate may be considered a potential employee of the AEC or one of its
contractors;Ã¢â‚¬Â soon further revisions required that AEC postdoc applicants spend
their fellowships working on classified research.31 That brought what was wanted:
three-quarters of the students who completed their physics Ph.D.s in 1953 with
AEC funding took jobs with the AEC upon graduation.32 Besides federally funded
fellowships from the AEC, ONR, and NSF, physics graduate students during the
1950s competed for fellowships from industrial defense-contractors like
Westinghouse, General Electric, DuPont, Raytheon, and IBM, which amounted to
indirect underwriting of physicistsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ education by the defense department.33
Funding physics students was one task; keeping them out of the armed services was another. In the midst of debates during the late 1940s between a protee on Atomic Energy, Congress of the United States, Eighty-First Congress, First Session,
on Atomic Energy Commission Fellowship Program, May 16, 17, 18, and 23, 1949 (Washington, D.C., 1949), 5.
30. Ibid., 4.
31. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Footnotes to security: AEC fellowships,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 3 (Apr 1950), 28-29; Hans Bethe and
C.J. Lapp (NRC Fellowship Office), correspondence during March and April 1950, in Folder
11:9, Hans A. Bethe Papers, Division of Rare and Special Collections, Cornell University
Library, Ithaca, New York. On the controversy over the AEC fellowships see also ref. 29;
E.R. [Eugene Rabinowitch], Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Ã¢â‚¬ËœcleansingÃ¢â‚¬â„¢of AEC fellowships,Ã¢â‚¬Â BAS, 5 (June-Jul 1949);
161-162; Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Fellowship Program: Testimony before the Joint Committee,Ã¢â‚¬Â BAS, 5 (JuneJul 1949), 166-178; Ã¢â‚¬Å“Loyalty tests cause cut in AEC Fellowship Program,Ã¢â‚¬Â BAS, 6 (Jan
1950), 32; Ã¢â‚¬Å“The curtailment of the AEC Fellowship Program,Ã¢â‚¬Â BAS,ÃƒÅ 6 (Jan 1950), 34, 62-63;
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Loyalty tests for science students?,Ã¢â‚¬Â BAS, 6 (Apr 1950), 98; and Wang (ref. 6), chapt. 7.
32. Heilbron (ref. 27), 51, citing an AEC news release dated 30 Apr 1953.
33. Birge to Robert Gordon Sproul (President of the University of California), 15 Apr 1949
and 15 Apr 1951, in RTB; Birge to Joseph Barker (President of the Research Corporation),
28 Aug 1950, in RTB; Birge to Clark Kerr (Chancellor of the Berkeley campus), 23 May
1955, in BDP, Folder 1:35; J.C. Street to Julian Hill (Executive Secretary of DuPont), 29
Jan 1960, in HDP, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Correspondence: 1958-60,Ã¢â‚¬Â Box A-P, Folder Ã¢â‚¬Å“1959-60 Grants-in-aid,Ã¢â‚¬Â
and William Preston to Glenn Giddings (Educational Relations consultant of General Electric), 15 Feb 1960, in the same folder. See also the annual reports from the chair of HarvardÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s
physics department to the university president, in HDP, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Correspondence: 1953-57 and
some earlier,Ã¢â‚¬Â Box 1, and Ã¢â‚¬Å“Correspondence: 1958-60,Ã¢â‚¬Â Box A-P; and Lowen (ref. 26), chapts.
posed Ã¢â‚¬Å“universal military trainingÃ¢â‚¬Â and the Ã¢â‚¬Å“selective serviceÃ¢â‚¬Â model of World
War II, President Truman had agreed that students studying Ã¢â‚¬Å“essentialÃ¢â‚¬Â topics,
namely science, engineering, or medicine, should be deferred from active service
because of their value to the nation. Local draft boards did not always have or act
on definitions of Ã¢â‚¬Å“necessary and irreplaceableÃ¢â‚¬Â scientific specialties.34 Physics today ran a notice in its issue of December 1948 alerting Ã¢â‚¬Å“[a]ll employers of young
scientistsÃ¢â‚¬Â to Ã¢â‚¬Å“prepare themselves immediately to handle draft cases. Men who
clearly should be classified II-A are being inducted through failure of their employers to learn the regulations and take the necessary steps in time.Ã¢â‚¬Â The notice
admonished, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Write letters. DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t wait for forms.Ã¢â‚¬Â The AIPÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s director Henry Barton
resounded the alarm in the next issue: Ã¢â‚¬Å“The time has come for those responsible
for the training or employment of physicists to take seriously their responsibilities
under the Selective Service Act.Ã¢â‚¬Â Department chairs and their colleagues should
be pro-active with the local draft boards, Barton pressed, and should move immediately to retain deferrals for their physics studentsÃ¢â‚¬â€even if the students themselves wanted to be drafted!35
Despite such alarmist pronouncements, however, by the late 1940s it appeared
to some commentators that the shortages of trained physicists created by World
War II had been eliminated. MIT physicist and president Karl Compton confidently wrote to President Truman in November 1949 that military research and
development was no longer hampered by shortages in trained personnel.36 A few
months later, the AECÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s advisor on scientific personnel, Philip Powers, agreed
with ComptonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s assessment: that Ã¢â‚¬Å“[f]ar more scientists have been coming off the
production line in the last few years than was anticipated.Ã¢â‚¬Â The nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s research
and development capabilities had doubled between 1947 and the beginning of
1950, Powers said, whereas the PresidentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s plan called for doubling by 1957. The
problem had become the balance of supply and demand.37
Fighting in Korea: A new phase in manpower requisitions
The outbreak of the Korean War upset the balance. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ManpowerÃ¢â‚¬Â in physics
once again became a matter of national security.38 Within a year after the U.S.
entered the Korean War in June 1950, the federal government increased its demand for physicists by a factor of ten; by February 1952, the number of industrial
34. Joel Spring, The sorting machine revisited: National educational policy since 1945
(New York, 1989), 40-53; James Hershberg, James B. Conant: Harvard to Hiroshima and
the making of the nuclear age (Stanford, 1993), 310-312, 516-520, 538-552.
35. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Notice!,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 1 (Dec 1948), 34; Henry Barton, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Institute doings,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 2 (Jan 1949), 14.
36. Karl Compton to President Truman, 2 Nov 1949, quoted in Kevles (ref. 27), 247.
37. Philip Powers, Ã¢â‚¬Å“The changing manpower picture,Ã¢â‚¬Â The scientific monthly, 70 (Mar
1950), 170, and Ã¢â‚¬Å“Balance needed: Manpower picture changing for science,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 3 (June
38. Kevles (ref. 27); Hershberg (ref. 34), chapts. 27-28; Lowen (ref. 26), 120-121; and
Wang (ref. 6), chapt. 8.
TRAINING AMERICAN PHYSICISTS
openings for physicists was also ten times higher than it had been during the winter of 1950.39 The Korean War threw the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s physics departments into what
PrincetonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s department chair aptly termed Ã¢â‚¬Å“a semi-wartime economy of science.Ã¢â‚¬Â40
Just weeks into the conflict, the chair of the NRCÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Division of Mathematics
and Physical Sciences circulated a memorandum among trusted colleagues. A policy
statement drawn up together with the director of the AIP, the memo sought to
establish Ã¢â‚¬Å“procedures for utilizing our manpower in physics in helping to solve
our military and other related problems.Ã¢â‚¬Â41 Unlike the situation in 1939, the Department of Defense and the AEC had already established Ã¢â‚¬Å“very greatly expanded
laboratories,Ã¢â‚¬Â manned by Ã¢â‚¬Å“expanded staffs of physicists.Ã¢â‚¬Â Whereas the nation had
to scramble in the early 1940s to build up Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and the MIT
Radiation Laboratory, the postwar laboratories were already Ã¢â‚¬Å“ready to function in
far less time than would be required to establish large centralized project laboratories.Ã¢â‚¬Â With these labs already up and running, the physicist-policymakers hoped
there would be no need to yank physicists and their students into centralized facilities, no need to repeat the pattern of Ã¢â‚¬Å“manpower utilizationÃ¢â‚¬Â of the war years. They
Unless a very short emergency (not more than three years) is contemplated, it is
of great importance to continue the training of promising students to full competence in physics. If this is not done, we cannot staff the expansion of physics work
already contemplated and we cannot build for the future scientific strength of the
nation. We must not have again an almost total interruption of the supply of new
physicists such as occurred from 1941 to 1945, from which we have now barely
recovered. We have now no Ã¢â‚¬Å“stockpileÃ¢â‚¬Â of physicistsÃ¢â‚¬Â¦.If any emergency lasting
ten years or more is contemplatedÃ¢â‚¬â€and we have been informed that such is the
caseÃ¢â‚¬â€it is important to continue fundamental as well as applied research, even in
the interests of military security. Such security ten years from now will be affected by our success now in excelling our enemies in the basic research out of
which new kinds of weapons will be developed.
The single most important resource the nation could protect was graduate education in physics.42
39. National Manpower Council (ref. 21), 195.
40. Donald Hamilton, acting chair of the Princeton Physics Department, Annual Report for
1950-51, 13, in PDP-AR (14 Sep 1951).
41. R.C. Gibbs (NRC) to A.G. Shenstone (chair of the Physics Department at Princeton), 7
Aug 1950, and response 18 Sep 1950, in PDP, Box 1, Ã¢â‚¬Å“ChairmanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s records,Ã¢â‚¬Â Folder Ã¢â‚¬Å“Scientific manpower.Ã¢â‚¬Â
42. R.C. Gibbs and H.A. Barton, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Proposed policy recommendation,Ã¢â‚¬Â 1 Aug 1950, in PDP,
Box 1, Ã¢â‚¬Å“ChairmanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s records,Ã¢â‚¬Â Folder Ã¢â‚¬Å“Scientific manpower.Ã¢â‚¬Â The visiting committee to
HarvardÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s physics department in 1952 commended its faculty for its valiant contributions to
Ã¢â‚¬Å“defense mobilization,Ã¢â‚¬Â though no faculty member had to Ã¢â‚¬Å“abandon…his instruction of graduate students; and no professor is so bedeviled by commitments to the mobilization program
that his work is seriously injured.Ã¢â‚¬Â The visiting committeeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s report, dated 14 Apr 1952, is in
Members of the physics department at the University of Rochester, New York,
took direct action to safeguard the manpower resource. Citing Ã¢â‚¬Å“the existing national emergency,Ã¢â‚¬Â they opened four new teaching assistantships and five new
research assistantships. Several of BerkeleyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s physics faculty sent their graduate
students to work as postdocs at the newly-formed weapons laboratory at
Livermore.43 PrincetonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s John Wheeler told his department chair that the hydrogen
bomb would be good for PrincetonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s graduate students: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Insofar as graduate students are going to have to get part of their training working on university sponsored war projectsÃ¢â‚¬ÂÃ¢â‚¬â€an assertion seemingly so obvious that Wheeler felt no need
to justify itÃ¢â‚¬â€Ã¢â‚¬Å“it will be hard for them to do better than on the thermonuclear project
for all-around range of ideas.Ã¢â‚¬Â In a classified report of 1954, Hans Bethe explained
that Ã¢â‚¬Å“the great effort [previously] madeÃ¢â‚¬Â at the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s universities Ã¢â‚¬Å“to train these
young people [in physics] has since borne fruit. Only because of that effort were
laboratories like Los Alamos able to gather their large staffs of highly competent
scientists in the years since 1948Ã¢â‚¬ÂÃ¢â‚¬â€and only with such large staffs could work on
the hydrogen bomb move forward.44
In this emergency, physicists scrutinized the draft policies that threatened to
remove physics graduate students from their studies. AIP director Barton offered a
proposal in November 1950 to the director of the manpower office of the National
Security Resources Board, which had been given the task of reviewing the Selective Service arrangements in the light of the Korean conflict. Barton proposed the
formation of a Ã¢â‚¬Å“Scientific and Technological ServiceÃ¢â‚¬Â in which promising undergraduate and graduate students in the sciences would be classified for service.
Draft-age young men who qualified as bona fide science students Ã¢â‚¬Å“would appear
at once in a pool subject to disposition in the national interest.Ã¢â‚¬Â The pool, Ã¢â‚¬Å“would
constitute a national resource of great importance, a resource in all too short supply, a resource which must be conserved, reserved for essential uses only, and
augmented and refined through all possible means.Ã¢â‚¬Â A National Board of ScienHDP, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Correspondence: 1958-60,Ã¢â‚¬Â Box Q-Z, Folder Ã¢â‚¬Å“1958-59 Visiting Committee.Ã¢â‚¬Â
PrincetonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s department chair reported in 1951 that five senior professors from his department were absent for war work during 1950-51, one (Henry Smyth) as chair of the AEC,
others (such as John Wheeler and Eugene Wigner) in AEC laboratories at Los Alamos and
Savannah River. Hamilton, Annual Report 1950/1, in PDP-AR.
43. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Supplementary memorandum for prospective graduate students,Ã¢â‚¬Â mimeographed notice circulated by the University of Rochester physics department, winter 1951, in PDP,
Box 2, Folder Ã¢â‚¬Å“Scientific manpower.Ã¢â‚¬Â On the founding of Livermore, see Seidel (ref. 3),
151-153, and Herbert York, The advisors: Oppenheimer, Teller, and the superbomb, 2nd
edn. (Stanford, 1989), 121-135. Lists of Berkeley physics students who planned to work at
Livermore may be found in the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Students advanced to candidacy,Ã¢â‚¬Â filed regularly between
October 1951 and March 1954, in BDP, Folders 7:8 – 7:12.
44. Wheeler to Shenstone, 8 Jan 1951, as quoted in Peter Galison and Barton Bernstein,
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Ã¢â‚¬ËœIn any lightÃ¢â‚¬â„¢: Scientists and the decision to build the hydrogen bomb,Ã¢â‚¬Â HSPS, 19:2 (1989),
267-347, on 320; Hans BetheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s report, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Observations on the development of the H-Bomb,Ã¢â‚¬Â
was declassified in 1980 and reprinted in York (ref. 43), 163-181; quotation on 166.
TRAINING AMERICAN PHYSICISTS
tific and Technological Personnel should be established with responsibility to
maintain an Ã¢â‚¬Å“adequate flow of scientists-in-training through professional (graduate) schools and other procedures to augment and improve the quality of the scientific and technological force of the United States against the possibility of an allout emergency, and the rehabilitation needs after such an emergency.Ã¢â‚¬Â45
MITÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s George Harrison lobbied for the formation of a similar special category
of selective service in his testimony before the Preparedness Subcommittee of the
Senate Committee on the Armed Forces in January 1951. Harrison explained to
the senators that new weapons Ã¢â‚¬Å“require inventive imagination and rapid development [and] result mainly from the cooperative effort of young men, most of whom
are only a short time out of college.Ã¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“Every young scientist can serve as a soldier
and carry a gun,Ã¢â‚¬Â Harrison argued, Ã¢â‚¬Å“but not every young soldier can help develop
a new weapon like the proximity fuze that will replace the services of many thousands of soldiers.Ã¢â‚¬Â Given that Ã¢â‚¬Å“[p]hysicists are now in dangerously short supply,Ã¢â‚¬Â
Harrison, like Barton, urged that a National Scientific Personnel Board be established, to induct young physicist-draftees to make, rather than use, new weapons.
Similar proposals for a Ã¢â‚¬Å“Scientific Service CorpsÃ¢â‚¬Â and a Ã¢â‚¬Å“Reserve Specialists Training CorpsÃ¢â‚¬Â came from the AECÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Smyth and from the Scientific Manpower Advisory Committee of the National Security Resources Board. The Advisory
CommitteeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s proposal, modeled on the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC ),
suggested that students in the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Reserve Specialists Training CorpsÃ¢â‚¬Â spend four
months in the standard military basic training before returning to their classrooms,
where they would wear uniforms or badges while continuing their training.46
Although the physicistsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ proposals for a new form of selective service were not
implementedÃ¢â‚¬â€indeed, some physicists complained bitterly after the Korean War
about the Ã¢â‚¬Å“completely irrationalÃ¢â‚¬Â drafting of physics graduate students near the
end of the warÃ¢â‚¬â€government bureaucrats did not miss the underlying logic behind
their proposals.47 The Federal Security AgencyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Office of Education and the Bureau of Labor Statistics made explicit the link between graduate training in physics and the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s defense: Ã¢â‚¬Å“If the research in physics which is vital to the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s
survival is to continue and grow,Ã¢â‚¬Â they asserted, Ã¢â‚¬Å“national policy must be concerned not only with keeping the young men already in the field at work but also
with insuring a continuing supply of new graduates.Ã¢â‚¬Â48 Likewise, the director of
the AECÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Physics and Mathematics Branch proposed in July 1951 that the AEC
build more accelerators so as to keep physicistsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ morale high and their students
sharp. He went through a simple calculation: if N nuclear physicists were Ã¢â‚¬Å“willing,
45. Henry Barton, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Emergency use of manpower: A proposal,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 4 (Jan 1951), 26-27.
46. Harrison (ref. 19), 6-7; Smyth (ref. 19), 23; Ã¢â‚¬Å“Scientific manpower: NSRB Advisory
Group calls for action,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 4 (Mar 1951), 28-9. See also Ã¢â‚¬Å“Physicists and military mobilization: Draft deferment of physics students,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 3 (Sep 1950), 23-24; Ã¢â‚¬Å“Science and mobilization,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 4 (Nov 1951), 4-5; and Spring (ref. 34), 44-49.
47. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Scientific manpower at midyear,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 7 (Oct 1954), 4-5, on 4.
48. Quoted in Barton (ref. 14), 6.
able, and eager to use particle accelerators, and on average five such men per
accelerator is an effective team,Ã¢â‚¬Â then the AEC should build (N/5) accelerators, or
two per year for as long as Ã¢â‚¬Å“the international situation remains roughly as at
There was a self-serving note in the physicistsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ policy proposals. Not only
were they calling for the continued smooth, non-centralized operation of largescale physics, together with special deferment policies for their students, but they
also ignored the interdisciplinary character of weapons work.50 Yet few people
challenged their proclamations. What is remarkable about the physicistpolicymakersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ response to the Korean conflict was the uniformity with which other
people, not directly involved with academic physics, adopted and amplified their
early call for vastly increased manpower production in the name of national defense. From the Bureau of Labor Statistics to the AEC, the equation between physics manpower and national security went unquestioned.51
After Korea: No demobilization
The cries about physics manpower shortages continued well after fighting ended
in Korea in July 1953. Complaints, predictions, and warnings about a devastating
shortage of Ph.D. physicists continued unabated well into the 1960s. During the
mid-1950s, neither an AIP annual report nor an APS Presidential Address could go
by without a mention of the manpower shortages in physics.52 The conference on
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The production of physicistsÃ¢â‚¬Â sponsored by the NRC and AIP in 1955 began
Ã¢â‚¬Å“with the premise that there is now a shortage of physicists that is not likely to be
49. Joseph Platt to Paul McDaniel, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Extent of Off-Site Research Program in Physics,Ã¢â‚¬Â 27
Jul 1951, as quoted in Seidel (ref. 10), 502.
50. Lillian Hoddeson et al., Critical assembly: A technical history of Los Alamos during the
Oppenheimer years, 1943-1945 (New York, 1993); Pickering (ref. 3); Galison, Image (ref.
3), chapts. 4, 9.
51. Rebecca Press Schwartz argues in an unpublished paper that the physicistsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ version of
the division of labor in weapons work was built into the Smyth Report on the Manhattan
Project: for security reasons, Smyth had to emphasize the contributions of physicists, much
of whose work had already been published in the open literature, rather than the closelyguarded inputs from materials science and engineering. Henry DeWolf Smyth, A general
account of the development of methods of using atomic energy for military purposes under
the auspices of the United States government, 1940-1945 (Washington, D.C., 1945). For
decades after his report was published, Smyth received angry letters from chemists and
engineers who complained that he had slighted their contributions. My thanks to Schwartz
for sharing a copy of her paper.
52. See, e.g., Barton (ref. 14), 5-6; M. Stanley Livingston, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Employment problems of young
physicists,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 8 (Apr 1955), 20-21; Raymond Birge, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Physics and physicists of the past
fifty years,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 9 (May 1956), 20-28, on 23-24; Ã¢â‚¬Å“Scientific manpower,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 8 (June 1955),
22-24; John Phelps and Ernest Pollard, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Physics, physicists, and security,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 9 (Dec 1956),
23-26; Ã¢â‚¬Å“Manpower and education,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 10 (Jan 1957), 50.
TRAINING AMERICAN PHYSICISTS
relieved for a decade or longer.Ã¢â‚¬Â53 Ã¢â‚¬Å“The present shortage of physicists and the
anticipated worsening of this situation in the future,Ã¢â‚¬Â exhorted one of the committee chairs from the conference, Ã¢â‚¬Å“must be the concern of all career physicists who
acknowledge a responsibility to their profession and to the well-being of the nation.Ã¢â‚¬Â54
One of the conference participants asked why so few American boys and girls
grew up to become physicists. Why was it, Dael Wolfle asked, that Ã¢â‚¬Å“of 10,000
boys and girls who are bright enough to become physicists,Ã¢â‚¬Â who Ã¢â‚¬Å“possess the
intellectual interest, habits, and abilities required of a physicist,Ã¢â‚¬Â only fifty completed undergraduate majors in the subject, and only fifteen pursued graduate study?
The next speaker reminded his fellow conferees that Ã¢â‚¬Å“the Ã¢â‚¬Ëœtime of decisionÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ for a
potential science student is often the 8th grade when electives are selected for the
following year.Ã¢â‚¬Â55 Physicists in the mid-1950s pondered how best to reach this
larger, untapped pool of elementary school and junior high school students to begin to close the manpower shortage.56 And this when the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s universities were
graduating three times as many Ph.D.s a year than the prewar records. Nonetheless, leaders of the American physics community aimed at a faster reproduction.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“In spite of the present importance of physics,Ã¢â‚¬Â the outgoing president of the APS
declared in an address in February 1956, Ã¢â‚¬Å“we constitute an extremely small fraction of the total [U.S.] population.Ã¢â‚¬Â57
Efforts to protect and increase the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s supply of physicists bordered on the
absurd. In June 1955, Physics today carried notice that a New York City company
had offered to arrange for Ã¢â‚¬Å“newly developed medical examinationsÃ¢â‚¬Â to be given to
those Ã¢â‚¬Å“difficult to replaceÃ¢â‚¬Â scientists who might otherwise have missed work because of food allergies. Although, by the companyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s own estimate, food allergies
affected more than 90% of the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s population, the proposed medical attention
would be doled out preferentially in the interest of Ã¢â‚¬Å“conserving our present pool of
53. Ã¢â‚¬Å“NRC-AIP Conference on the Production of Physicists,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 8 (June 1955), 6-12, on 7.
54. R.S. Shankland, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Recommendations, NRC-AIP Conference on the Production of Physicists, Physics Committee,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 8 (June 1955), 13-14, on 13.
55. Ã¢â‚¬Å“NRC-AIP ConferenceÃ¢â‚¬Â (ref. 53), 8-9. Birge quoted similar statistics; Ã¢â‚¬Å“of the original
primary school population,Ã¢â‚¬Â only 0.4 percent completed bachelorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s degrees in physics, with
correspondingly lower numbers for advanced degrees. Birge (ref. 52), 24; Marsh White,
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Estimation of numbers of physicists in training during the next decade,Ã¢â‚¬Â American journal
of physics, 22 (1954), 421-422, upon which Birge relied.
56. John Rudolph argues that many of the efforts to reform high-school and college physics
curricula during the 1950s and 1960s aimed less at closing the manpower shortage than at
increasing basic science literacy and a cultural appreciation for physics. Rudolph, Scientists
in the classroom: The Cold War reconstruction of American science education (New York,
2002), esp. chapts. 3-5.
57. Birge (ref. 52), 23.
58. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Extending longevity of scientists,Ã¢â‚¬Â as reported in Ã¢â‚¬Å“Scientific manpower,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 8 (June
On September 5, 1957, exactly one month before the launch of Sputnik revved
the rhetoric of manpower still higher, Senator Henry Jackson (D., Washington)
released a report entitled Ã¢â‚¬Å“Trained manpower for freedom.Ã¢â‚¬Â Citing both the new
opportunities as well as the new challenges of the atomic age, Jackson announced
that Ã¢â‚¬Å“the member states of NATO now face an authentic crisis, in the form of
across-the-board shortages of trained manpower,Ã¢â‚¬Â where, he was quick to add, the
relevant Ã¢â‚¬Å“trained manpowerÃ¢â‚¬Â included only Ã¢â‚¬Å“scientific and technical personnel.Ã¢â‚¬Â It
was a new age, Jackson declared, in which the Ã¢â‚¬Å“the decisive factor is highly trained
managerial and technical brain power.Ã¢â‚¬Â59 One month before the United States would
lose the first round of the Ã¢â‚¬Å“space race,Ã¢â‚¬Â and a few years before presidential candidates would debate the extent of the Ã¢â‚¬Å“missile gap,Ã¢â‚¬Â Jackson capitalized on the
competition in scientific education and manpower. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Soviets are now graduating trained technical people at a per capita rate roughly twice that of the NATO
community as a whole,Ã¢â‚¬Â Jackson declared, without specifying his source. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The
quality of Soviet instruction is high.Ã¢â‚¬Â With the Soviets marching forward on the
scientific manpower front, the U.S. had to make the most of the Ã¢â‚¬Å“greatest resource
of the state and of the free world community,Ã¢â‚¬Â that is, scientific talent. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Nothing is
more precious.Ã¢â‚¬Â He outlined various Ã¢â‚¬Å“talent development programsÃ¢â‚¬Â including fellowships for high-school and college students, special summer study institutes,
and awards for students and teachers who excelled in science education. These
resources, Jackson explained with a telling metaphor, Ã¢â‚¬Å“should be used as catalytic
agents which, so to speak, can initiate educational chain reactions extending over
the broadest possible scientific and technological front.Ã¢â‚¬Â60
Immediately after SputnikÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s launch, President Eisenhower announced that the
nation needed to create scientists even more urgently than it needed to pursue Ã¢â‚¬Å“all
other immediate tasks of producing missiles [and] of developing new techniques
in the armed services.Ã¢â‚¬Â His scientific advisors emphasized even more emphatically
than before that missiles would come only with investment in education.61 Mere
59. Henry M. Jackson, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Trained manpower for freedom,Ã¢â‚¬Â 16-page report addressed to the
Special NATO Parliamentary Committee on Scientific and Technical Personnel; quotations
from pp. 3-4, copy in PDP, Box 1, Ã¢â‚¬Å“ChairmanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s records,Ã¢â‚¬Â Folder, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Scientific manpower.Ã¢â‚¬Â
JacksonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s advisory committee for preparing the report included several physicists and mathematicians (Richard Courant, Maria Goeppert Mayer, Edward Teller, and John Wheeler),
the president of MIT (James Killian), the former president of the National Academy of
Sciences (Detlev Bronk), and the president of the Motion Pictures Association (Eric
Johnston). For background to JacksonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s report, see Krige, Ã¢â‚¬Å“NATOÃ¢â‚¬Â (ref. 5), 88-93.
60. Jackson (ref. 59), 4, 6-10. Summer study institutes for bringing high school physics
teachers up to date had been in place for several years; John Rudolph, Ã¢â‚¬Å“From World War to
Woods Hole: The use of wartime research models for curriculum reform,Ã¢â‚¬Â Teachers College record (in press, 2001). See also, Frederick Seitz, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Factors concerning education for
science and engineering,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 11 (Jul 1958), 12-15; United States Department of Health,
Education, and Welfare, Education in the USSR (Washington, D.C., 1957); and Ã¢â‚¬Å“Education
in the Soviet Union: Emphasis on science,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 11 (Jul 1958), 12-16.
61. Eisenhower, as quoted in Ã¢â‚¬Å“An emerging science policy,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 10 (Dec 1957), 32.
TRAINING AMERICAN PHYSICISTS
days after the launch of Sputnik, the AIP tried to ascertain whether appropriate
Ã¢â‚¬Å“educational chain reactionsÃ¢â‚¬Â could be induced to meet the latest challenge. Its
Education and Manpower Division distributed questionnaires to every department
within the United States that offered a four-year undergraduate major in physics.
Within three months, 490 of the 536 departments had respondedÃ¢â‚¬â€a 91% response
rate that in itself indicates how seriously the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s physics departments considered the situation. More than ninety percent of the respondents reported some Ã¢â‚¬Å“shortageÃ¢â‚¬Â in its physics teaching staff. Handling the rising influx of undergraduate and
graduate majors in physics overloaded the staffs of nearly half of the responding
departments. Almost an equal number reported that the inflated teaching loads had
materially reduced the time available for research. Although the administrations at
these institutions had authorized a total of 403 new appointments of Ph.D. physicists to alleviate the teaching pressures, only 254 of these authorized positions
were expected to be filled during the 1957/8 academic year; a large proportion of
the responding department chairs predicted even worse difficulties in procuring
adequate teaching staff for the following year.62 By the time the AIP completed
this study, the circulation of the monthly newsletter from a private lobbying group
called the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Scientific Manpower Commission,Ã¢â‚¬Â which reported vital statistics on
fluctuating supply and demand for trained scientific and technical personnel, had
risen above 12,000.63
Initiatives similar to JacksonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s proposals were put in place soon after Sputnik,
thanks especially to the National Defense Education Act of 1958; some had been
operating for several years.64 Fantastic increases in the numbers of physics Ph.D.s
awarded annuallyÃ¢â‚¬â€a jump from 500 in 1955, to 1,000 in 1965, to 1,500 by 1970Ã¢â‚¬â€
resulted. Still there were not enough. Analysts projected cataclysmic shortages.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Manpower crisis found in physics. Report says 20,000 jobs will go unfilled by
1970Ã¢â‚¬Â announced a New York Times headline on July 6, 1964. The newspaper took
its facts from the AIPÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Education and Manpower Division. Ã¢â‚¬Å“By 1970, the experts
predict,Ã¢â‚¬Â the Times echoed the AIPÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s report, Ã¢â‚¬Å“industry and government will have a
62. W.C. Kelly, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Report on a study of the supply of physics teachers in U.S. colleges and
universities offering a major in physics,Ã¢â‚¬Â 7-page report dated 1 May 1958, but in circulation
since mid-April. The surveys were distributed on 31 Oct 1957. In AIP-EMD, Box 5, Folder,
Ã¢â‚¬Å“AIP-publications, Kelly, W.C.Ã¢â‚¬Â
63. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Scientific Manpower Commission, 1958,Ã¢â‚¬Â 2-page pamphlet in AIP-EMD, Box 4, folder
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Scientific Manpower Commission, Washington, D.C.Ã¢â‚¬Â
64. Ã¢â‚¬Å“An emerging science policyÃ¢â‚¬Â (ref. 61); C.J. Overbeck, Ã¢â‚¬Å“The physicist and the National
Defense Education Act of 1958,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 12 (May 1959), 22-24; Rudolph (ref. 56); Robert
Divine, The Sputnik challenge: EisenhowerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s response to the Soviet satellite (New York,
1993); Barbara Barksdale Clowse, Brainpower for the Cold War: The Sputnik crisis and
National Defense Education Act of 1958 (Westport, CT, 1981).
deficit of at least 20,000 physicistsÃ¢â‚¬â€about one-third of the total number required.Ã¢â‚¬Â
There had been 29,000 physics-related jobs and only 17,300 physicists to fill them
in 1960; the Ã¢â‚¬Å“low output of key scientific and educational manpower is expected
to result in critical shortages in 1970.Ã¢â‚¬Â Within days word of the impending Ã¢â‚¬Å“crisisÃ¢â‚¬Â
had spread from LondonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Financial Times to the Washington Post, and from the
Wall Street Journal to Business Week.65
Under increasingly melodramatic headlines, the same story also appeared across
the country. The New York Herald Tribune trumpeted Ã¢â‚¬Å“Physicists: We need lots
more;Ã¢â‚¬Â the Philadelphia Daily News, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Peril looms in shortage of physicists;Ã¢â‚¬Â the
Wilmington, Delaware Evening Journal, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Physics keystone of power/most Americans unaware of meaning;Ã¢â‚¬Â and the Orange, California News, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Plight of the nation: Ã¢â‚¬ËœVanishing physicists.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢Ã¢â‚¬Â The Akron Beacon Journal saw the bright side: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Looking for job future? Just study physics.Ã¢â‚¬Â In all, at least forty-nine different newspapers and magazines in twenty-nine different states ran a story based on the AIPÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s
Many papers peppered their coverage with editorials about the indispensability of physicists to the nation and the world. The UPI story, which many local
papers printed while changing only the headline, used language only slightly less
sensationalistic than Senator JacksonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Physics is the science which splits the
atom, produced the H-bomb and the bright, peaceful promises of atomic energy,
and is the indispensable keystone of many technologies. It is the science of matter
and motion, and these are the fields in which nations contend for superiority.Ã¢â‚¬Â An
article which ran in both the Moline, Illinois Dispatch and the Beloit, Wisconsin
News began similarly:
It can be persuasively argued that our age is the age of physics. Other branches of
science have made tremendous strides since the turn of the century, but it is physicists who have transformed manÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s understanding of the universe. Nor is this new
understanding purely abstract. Physics has a practical role in government and
industry. The entire space program, for example, rests upon physics
discoveriesÃ¢â‚¬Â¦.What it all adds up to is that, in an age of great emphasis on physics, we are not training enough physicists to meet the demand.
The Rochester Times-Union in Rochester, New York put it more simply: physicists are Ã¢â‚¬Å“a prime national resource in the nuclear and space age.Ã¢â‚¬Â67
65. Clippings in AIP-EMD, Box 6, Folder, Ã¢â‚¬Å“News media coverage, 1964 manpower study.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Physics todayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s article based on the AIP report contained none of the histrionics of the
newspaper accounts: Ã¢â‚¬Å“The supply [of physics Ph.D.s] seems to be increasing faster than the
demand. Some alleviation of the shortage of physicists can be foreseen, but the shortage
will probably persist through 1970.Ã¢â‚¬Â Fred Boercker, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Education and manpower in physics,Ã¢â‚¬Â
PT, 17 (Sep 1964), 42-50, on 50. Boercker, the Director of Manpower Studies at AIP, had
written the report he abstracted.
66. Clippings (ref. 65).
TRAINING AMERICAN PHYSICISTS
The predictions of shortfall could not have been further from the mark. The
escalation of Ph.D. production did not run after a lack, but produced a glut. The
droves of new physics Ph.D.s slid into the worst job shortage the nation has ever
seenÃ¢â‚¬â€far more protracted than any employment-placement difficulties during the
Depression years. Within just one year of the widely-quoted AIP report of 1964,
well over twice as many young physicists registered with the AIP placement service than there were jobs available. By 1968, nearly 1,000 applicants crowded the
halls of one of the APS annual meetings, scrambling for interviews for one of the
253 advertised jobs; the following year, almost 1,300 young physicists competed
for 234 jobs. At the annual April meetings of the APS, held in Washington, D.C.,
the numbers turned grimmer: 1,010 physicists competed for 63 jobs in 1970, 1,053
for 53 in 1971. Only sixteen employers bothered to show up for the APS meeting
in April 1971, down by more than one hundred from the number who had flocked
to the meeting in 1962. The AIPÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Placement Service Advisory Committee estimated in October 1970 that by July of 1971, the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“demand levelÃ¢â‚¬Â for scientists and engineers would slip to 44 percent what it had been a decade earlier.68
American physics had indeed reached a crisis by 1970, exactly when the 1964
report had predicted.
The employment crisis, which lasted for the better part of the 1970s, had its
roots in the same ground as the previous boom: the Cold War. Protests against
classified research on university campuses, heightened by Vietnam-era protests
against the defense establishment more generally, rattled the Cold War logic that
equated physics manpower with national defense. The Mansfield Amendment of
1969, which placed restrictions on the Defense DepartmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s funding of basic research, curtailed opportunity.69 More immediate in their effects, however, were
rapid, deep cuts in defense spending. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The federal government is the largest single
employer of scientists and engineers in the U.S.,Ã¢â‚¬Â explained an internal memorandum from the AIPÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Education and Manpower Division in October 1970. The federal government had increased its employment of scientists and engineers by 49
percent between 1959 and 1969; new government jobs for physicists rose at a rate
of nearly ten percent a year between 1960 and 1968. At the end of that rise, one
fifth of the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s physics Ph.D.s worked directly for the government. In 1969,
the Defense Department employed 12,000 physical scientists, other federal agencies another 19,000.70 And, of course, the majority of university-employed physics
Ph.D.s had part or all of their research budgets from the federal government.
68. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Placement register, statistical comparison, APS-AAPT Annual Joint Meeting, 1963 to
1969Ã¢â‚¬Â (not dated, ca. 1970), and Ã¢â‚¬Å“Summary: Placement service register, The American
Physical Society Meeting, Washington, D.C.,Ã¢â‚¬Â dated 3 June 1971, both in AIP-EMD, Box
13, Folder Ã¢â‚¬Å“Placement literature;Ã¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“Supply and demand,Ã¢â‚¬Â Oct 1970, in AIP-EMD, Box 13,
Folder Ã¢â‚¬Å“Placement Service Advisory Committee.Ã¢â‚¬Â
69. Kevles (ref. 3), 24-25; Leslie (ref. 3), chapt. 9; Robert Serber with Robert Crease, Peace
and war: Reminiscences of a life on the frontiers of science (New York, 1998), chapt. 9.
70. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Supply and demandÃ¢â‚¬Â (ref. 68); Robert AlbertyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s report in Brown and Schwartz (ref.
DÃƒÂ©tente meant bad economic news for the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s physicists. Deep cuts in
spending for defense and space knocked the governmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s science-employment
system far out of equilibrium. In 1968, ten percent of all jobs in the nationÃ¢â‚¬â€all
jobs, not just jobs in science or engineeringÃ¢â‚¬â€stemmed from the defense industry.
Between 1968 and 1971, one quarter of these jobs disappeared. Sixteen-thousand
scientists and engineers, each holding advanced graduate degrees, lost their aerospace-industry jobs during 1970, joining the half-million employees in the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s
defense plants laid off by October 1970; another half-million were expected to
meet the same fate within the next year. The defense-spending cuts, combined
with the wane of baby-boom enrollments, cut into the academic job market for
physicists as for everyone else. At least 45 and as many as 58 university departments had interviewed candidates for jobs at each of the April APS meetings between 1962 and 1968. The number of academic jobs on offer at the meeting dropped
to 21 in 1969 and to 12 in 1971Ã¢â‚¬â€a factor of four decrease in as many years.71 Soon
the numbers of physics Ph.D.s awarded each year began to fall (see figure 2).
Four years into the physics-job depression, the APS and the American Association of Physics Teachers convened a special meeting under the title, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Tradition
and Change in Physics Graduate Education.Ã¢â‚¬Â Over 150 representatives from government, industry, and the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s universitiesÃ¢â‚¬â€three times more than the anticipated attendanceÃ¢â‚¬â€met at Penn State during the summer of 1974. They focused
their attention on one central question: did the Ã¢â‚¬Å“traditional training in physicsÃ¢â‚¬ÂÃ¢â‚¬â€a
tradition forged over a quarter-century of Cold War expansionÃ¢â‚¬â€serve the Ã¢â‚¬Å“best
interests of society, of the physics community, and of the individual physicist?Ã¢â‚¬Â72
What it meant to do physics, and what it meant to be trained as a physicist, required serious re-examination in the mid-1970s, just as it had after World War II.
About half of the students in BerkeleyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s department during the early and mid1950s expressly wanted to lend their hand to the Cold-War cause and half did not
want to have any part in the new form of Ã¢â‚¬Å“civil service.Ã¢â‚¬Â For every student who
replied Ã¢â‚¬Å“Not interested in war workÃ¢â‚¬Â on the departmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s semi-annual survey of
job preferences, another wrote down Ã¢â‚¬Å“Academic or war research,Ã¢â‚¬Â or Ã¢â‚¬Å“prefer work
connected with national defence,Ã¢â‚¬Â or Ã¢â‚¬Å“Ã¢â‚¬ËœEssentialÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ industry or GovÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t.Ã¢â‚¬Â The 50-50
split remained steady between 1951 and 1954, during as well as after the Korean
War.73 The obvious Cold War reasoning for training scientific manpower framed
studentsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ choicesÃ¢â‚¬â€for or against a particular courseÃ¢â‚¬â€just as plainly as it did for
71. Ã¢â‚¬Å“SummaryÃ¢â‚¬Â and Ã¢â‚¬Å“Supply and demandÃ¢â‚¬Â (ref. 68). An entry to the enormous literature
generated by the job crunch that began in 1970 can be made through the records within AIPEMD, Box 13; Brown and Schwartz (ref.16); Weart (ref. 7), 327-331; Lee Grodzins, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Supply and demand for Ph.D. physicists, 1975 to 1986,Ã¢â‚¬Â in Martin Perl, ed., Physics careers,
employment and education (New York, 1978), 52-86.
72. APS, Physics and society: The newsletter of the forum on physics and society, 6 (Jan
1977); Ã¢â‚¬Å“Tradition and change in physics graduate education,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 27 (Nov 1974), 91; and
D. Allan Bromley, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Physics in perspective,Ã¢â‚¬Â PT, 25 (Jul 1972), 23-35.
73. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Students advanced to candidacy,Ã¢â‚¬Â Oct 1951 through Mar 1954, in BDP, Folders 7:87:12.
TRAINING AMERICAN PHYSICISTS
Senator Jackson or department chair Birge. At a time when the textbook for a
graduate-level nuclear physics might be the AECÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s handbook, The effects of atomic
weapons, and job postings within BerkeleyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s department as well as Physics today
routinely included positions in Ã¢â‚¬Å“nucleonicsÃ¢â‚¬Â as well as guided missiles, students
did not have much trouble detecting the Cold War logic of physicist manpower.74
5. COLD WAR PHYSICS?
Did the historically bounded Cold-War context influence the research that
American academic physicists undertook after the war? Paul Forman has famously
asserted that they suffered from Ã¢â‚¬Å“false consciousness,Ã¢â‚¬Â trading in their intellectual
autonomy for defense dollars. Physicists Ã¢â‚¬Å“pretended a fundamental character to
their work that it scarcely had;Ã¢â‚¬Â it had merely Ã¢â‚¬Å“instrumental significanceÃ¢â‚¬Â¦to their
military patrons.Ã¢â‚¬Â In response to these charges of intellectual Ã¢â‚¬Å“seductionÃ¢â‚¬Â by the
military, Daniel Kevles has argued that certain areas of scientific research Ã¢â‚¬Å“can
take on lives of their own as intellectually compelling areas of inquiry,Ã¢â‚¬Â even if
their initial impetus comes from designs with military relevance. There is no transhistorical significance, Kevles argues, to terms such as Ã¢â‚¬Å“basicÃ¢â‚¬Â or Ã¢â‚¬Å“fundamentalÃ¢â‚¬Â
physics: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Physics is what physicists do.Ã¢â‚¬Â75
There is another way to frame the question. American physicists were not as
concerned with policing a cordon sanitaire between Ã¢â‚¬Å“basicÃ¢â‚¬Â and Ã¢â‚¬Å“appliedÃ¢â‚¬Â physics
as they were with coping with the sudden population explosion of physics students
whom the Cold War had produced. The student overflows, and the concrete requirements for teaching rooms full of pupils rather than mentoring a handful of
individual disciples, helped to solidify certain research traditions and approaches.
The tremendous, unprecedented demographic shift helped to drive a pedagogical
emphasis upon efficient, repeatableÃ¢â‚¬â€and thereby trainableÃ¢â‚¬â€techniques of calculation, thus solidifying a prewar instrumentalist trend. Such a pedagogical program, centered increasingly around Feynman diagrams and similar calculational
techniques, could be taught in fine Taylorist, factory-production style. They were
amenable to teaching and evaluation in ways that other aspects or styles of practicing physics were not.76 As one former physics graduate student from Harvard later
74. Lists of textbooks, 1952-54, in BDP, Folders 8:19-8:20; collections of incoming announcements for employment possibilities, 1945-55, in BDP, Folder 4:27; Hughes Research
and Development Laboratories, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Guided missiles,Ã¢â‚¬Â full-page advertisement in PT, 9 (Nov
75. Forman (ref. 3), 224-9; Kevles (ref. 27), 262-264.
76. Rudolph (ref. 60) similarly notes the postwar emphasis on techniques, rather than conceptual development, in Cold War curricular reforms. Andrew Warwick and Ursula Klein
have drawn attention to the roles of Ã¢â‚¬Å“theoretical technologyÃ¢â‚¬Â and Ã¢â‚¬Å“paper toolsÃ¢â‚¬Â in physical
scientistsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢work: Warwick, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Cambridge mathematics and Cavendish physics: Cunningham,
Campbell, and EinsteinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s relativity, 1905-1911. Part I: The uses of theory,Ã¢â‚¬Â Studies in history and philosophy of science, 23 (1992), 625-656; Klein, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Techniques of modelling and
paper-tools in classical chemistry,Ã¢â‚¬Â in Mary Morgan and Margaret Morrison, eds., Models
as mediators: Perspectives on natural and social sciences (New York, 1999), 146-167.
recalled, Ã¢â‚¬Å“I went to graduate school [in the late 1950s] to learn about foundations.
I was taught, instead, how to do physics. In place of wisdom, I was offered skills.Ã¢â‚¬Â77
Epistemological musings or the striving for ultimate theoretical foundationsÃ¢â‚¬â€never
a strong interest among American physicists even before the warÃ¢â‚¬â€fell beyond the
pale for the postwar generation and their advisors.78
Physicists sometimes made the pedagogical bases of their research choices
explicit. Freeman Dyson, Richard FeynmanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s young collaborator who did more
than anyone else to bring FeynmanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s new diagrammatic techniques to young physicistsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ attention, framed his efforts in pedagogical terms. Writing to a skeptical
Robert Oppenheimer in October 1948, Dyson argued that Feynman diagrams were
Ã¢â‚¬Å“considerably easier to use, understand, and teachÃ¢â‚¬Â than any of the rival formalisms. His testimonial to the intertwined intellectual and educational merits of the
diagrams was echoed by practically every textbook author on particle physics,
quantum field theory, dispersion relations, and the S-matrix program over the next
Concern with the pedagogical effectiveness of physicistsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ research topics likewise appears in BirgeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s recommendation for early promotion of one of BerkeleyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s
experimentalists. Emphasizing that Ã¢â‚¬Å“one of the greatest tasks now confronting the
department is the direction of the research work of our graduate students,Ã¢â‚¬Â Birge
explained that Ã¢â‚¬Å“more than any other member of the staff, [this professor] has been
Ã¢â‚¬Ëœimposed uponÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ in this connection. He now has eighteen graduate students formally enrolled for research under his direction.Ã¢â‚¬Â More important, he had proven to
be an effective leader of their research, as evidenced by their impressive publication record. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I have asked [him] to compile a list of the publications of his students, because such publications should be considered effectively as part of his
research record.Ã¢â‚¬Â Success in advising graduate students made the faculty member
too precious to risk losing to another university.80
77. Evelyn Fox Keller, Ã¢â‚¬Å“The anomaly of a woman in physics,Ã¢â‚¬Â in Sara Ruddick and Pamela
Daniels, eds., Working it out (New York, 1977), 78-91, on 83.
78. Silvan S. Schweber, Ã¢â‚¬Å“The empiricist temper regnant: Theoretical physics in the United
States, 1920-1950,Ã¢â‚¬Â HSPS, 17:1 (1986), 55-98, and QED and the men who made it: Dyson,
Feynman, Schwinger, and Tomonaga (Princeton, 1994); Nancy Cartwright, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Philosophical
problems of quantum theory: The response of American physicists,Ã¢â‚¬Â in Lorenz KrÃƒÂ¼ger, et
al., eds., The probabilistic revolution (2 vols., Cambridge, 1987), 2, 417-35; Alexi Assmus,
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Americanization of molecular physics,Ã¢â‚¬Â HSPS, 23:1 (1992), 1-34; Andrew Pickering,
Ã¢â‚¬Å“From field theory to phenomenology: The history of dispersion relations,Ã¢â‚¬Â in Brown, et al.
(ref. 27), 579-599.
79. Freeman Dyson, unpublished memorandum to J. Robert Oppenheimer, 17 Oct 1948,
quoted in Schweber, QED (ref. 78), 522-523; Kaiser, Making theory (ref. 10), 378-391, and
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Stick-figure realism: Conventions, reification, and the persistence of Feynman diagrams,
1948-64,Ã¢â‚¬Â Representations, 70 (2000), 49-86. Cf. David Kaiser, Ã¢â‚¬Å“A y is just a y ? Pedagogy,
practice, and the reconstitution of general relativity, 1942-1975,Ã¢â‚¬Â Studies in history and
philosophy of modern physics, 29 (1998), 321-338.
80. Birge to Dean A.R. Davis, 9 Apr 1951, in RTB.
TRAINING AMERICAN PHYSICISTS
For a young theoretical physicist on BerkeleyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s faculty, however, advising graduate students cut the other way. After only a year and a half at Berkeley, he was
advised to look for a position elsewhere. The professorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s problem stemmed from
the crush of students who required advising.81 The young theoristÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s classroom teaching was not at issue, nor his diligence; Ã¢â‚¬Å“I have on more than one occasion found
him working in his office on Saturday afternoon, or on Sunday, when very few
other persons were in the building,Ã¢â‚¬Â Birge wrote on his behalf.
Despite his merits, the man could not attract graduate students: Ã¢â‚¬Å“In general
[he] is interested in field theories of a rather abstract nature. It is somewhat the sort
of thing that Einstein has worked on for many years (without any important results).Ã¢â‚¬Â That was a mistake.82
It is felt here that when one has attained an established position, he can afford to
work on a highly important, but very difficult problem, if necessary for years
without visible resultsÃ¢â‚¬Â¦.But a young man must choose subjects that show promise of publishable results in a relatively short time. It is particularly important to
select subjects of this character for graduate student researchÃ¢â‚¬â€subjects that are
not trivial, but at the same time are not unduly difficult or too time-consuming.
Writing in favor of the dismissed theorist to HarvardÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Kenneth Bainbridge, Birge
[He] is interested in field theory and the work he is now doing may turn out to be
important. It is difficult to judge the matter at this time. But it is not the sort of
work that can readily be used for Ph.D. theses, nor the kind that leads to rapid or
voluminous publication. Hence it seemed to our committee that [he] was not carrying his fair share of the load of graduate student research, and was not likely to
in the immediate future. It therefore seems desirable to replace him by someone
who will be more useful to us.
Assessing the episode two years later, Birge made the equation between research
topic and pedagogical needs crystal clear:84
He turned out to be a very good teacher and the main criticism of his research was
that it was in a rather abstract field. In particular, the subjects that he was suggest81. Leonard Loeb to Birge, 14 Oct 1952, in RTB, Box 19, Folder, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Loeb.Ã¢â‚¬Â The theorist had
been hired to help fill the gap left by the firing or resignation of the physics departmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s
theorists (and two experimentalists) over the loyalty oath (Kaiser (ref. 6)). Thus the teaching crunch in BerkeleyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s department had as specific tie to Cold War politics.
82. Birge to E. B. Roessler (University of California, Davis), 29 Nov 1952, in RTB.
83. Birge to Bainbridge, 11 Feb 1953, in RTB. Birge sent identical letters to Professors
Halliday (University of Pittsburgh), Duncan (Pennsylvania State College), Macdonald (Boston University), Ellickson (University of Oregon), Howard (University of Oklahoma), and
Bengston (University of Nebraska), during the first three weeks of March 1953.
84. Birge to Alfred Kelleher, 3 Nov 1954, in RTB. BirgeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s designation of the unfortunate
ing to graduate students for their research seemed too difficult and too abstract
for that sort of thing. It was therefore felt that he would not be particularly valuable to us since we have a very large number of graduate students who must be
guided to the Ph.D. degree.
Having the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s largest graduate program, Berkeley could not afford certain
types of research. Like the promoted experimentalist, the theorist could boast effective classroom teaching and dutiful work habits. But there was no room for
theory too difficult for graduate studentsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ theses. The Berkeley cases probably
represent a wider trend: most physics departments in the United States reported
having too many graduate students for their faculty to handle. During the manpower build-up phase of the Cold War, physicists had to choose their research so
as to support throngs of graduate students on their coattails. Pedagogical realities
constrained research possibilities.85
In reference to the argument between Forman and Kevles, it was not military
spending per se, but the pedagogical requirements of training graduate students
that shaped the character of postwar physics research in theoretical as well as experimental physics. The pedagogical requirements entailed by the sudden exponential growth in graduate student numbers during the Cold War reinforced a particular instrumentalist approach to physics. Feynman diagrams and similar Ã¢â‚¬Å“paper
toolsÃ¢â‚¬Â flourished within this context, while other aspects of theoretical work appeared irrelevant or unsupportable. By keeping the exigencies of graduate training
in focus, we can begin to unpack the effects of the Cold War on American physics.
theoristÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s research as overly Ã¢â‚¬Å“abstractÃ¢â‚¬Â was exaggerated; he worked on phenomenological
applications of quantum field theories and methods to improve approximate calculationsÃ¢â‚¬â€
hardly an Ã¢â‚¬Å“EinsteinianÃ¢â‚¬Â quest for a unified field theory. Kaiser, Making theory (ref. 10),
85. Lowen (ref. 26), chapts. 4-5, points out that Frederick Terman, first as dean of StanfordÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s
engineering school and later as the universityÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s provost, encouraged faculty to select research topics most likely to attract military contracts, on which they could hire and train
TRAINING AMERICAN PHYSICISTS
Ph.D. Production Rates in the United States, 1890-1971
This appendix contains information on the growth in the numbers of Ph.D.s
awarded each year in various fields by U.S. institutions from 1890 to 1971.85 The
fields included each accounted for at least 1 percent of the total number of doctorates granted in any year. The numbers of Ph.D.s awarded each year in physics, like
the total number of Ph.D.s in all fields, rose exponentially during this period apart
from World Wars I and II. However, the doubling period di varied across fields and
over time. The tables give di (the doubling period for each subject as measured in
years), the ratio dphysics/di, and the multiple-correlation coefficient for each entry,
R2, which indicates how well the data fit the pure exponential curve; a perfect fit
would have R2 = 1.000. Note that the smaller the doubling period, the more rapid
Doubling-period for the number of Ph.D.s granted annually by U.S. institutions, 1890-1941
86. Based on data in Adkins (ref. 7), 252-429.
Doubling-period for the number of Ph.D.s granted annually by U.S. institutions, 1945-71
Doubling-period for the number of Ph.D.s granted annually by U.S. institutions, 1945-51
TRAINING AMERICAN PHYSICISTS
Doubling-period for the number of Ph.D.s granted annually by U.S. institutions, 1958-68
Cold War requisitions, scientific manpower, and the production of American
physicists after World War II
Beginning most explicitly with the American involvement in the Korean War, and continuing unabated until 1970, the demand for Ph.D.-trained physicists in the United States followed a particular Cold War logic of Ã¢â‚¬Å“manpowerÃ¢â‚¬Â and requisitions. This logic, rehearsed
by senior physicists, university administrators, government commissions, individual senators, and newspaper reporters from across the country argued that young graduate students
in physics constituted the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s most precious resource. The purported need to train
ever-larger numbers of physics graduate students was often used to justify the structural
rearrangements associated with Ã¢â‚¬Å“big science,Ã¢â‚¬Â from huge federally-subsidized budgets to
factory-sized equipment. The exigencies of training roomfuls of graduate students, rather
than mentoring handfuls of disciples, reinforced the prevailing American pragmatic, instrumentalist approach to theory.
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