Contributed Papers

Cold War Science

Presenter 1

Ad Astra: A Study of the Impact of Restructuring on the Final Years of the Space Race

Jerryn F. Puckett

Independent Scholar

Abstract

The rivalry between Sergei Korolev and Wernher von Braun began in the years leading up to the fall of Nazi Germany and led the Soviet Union and the United States into the Space Race. Using milestones as a progress marker, the USSR consistently stayed ahead of the US in almost every aspect of development. This trend remained until the mid-1960s where the United States took the lead and ended up landing on the moon. Countless debates exist regarding the United State's success at the end of the Space Race. While many theories focus on the economic crises that faced the Soviet Union in the final years of the conflict, this text focuses on the death of Soviet rocket engineer Sergei Korolev in January 1966 as well as restructuring of NASA that occurred after the fatal fire of Apollo test flight A204 in January 1967.

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Presenter 2

Atomic Spy Klaus Fuchs: The Responsibility of Scientists

Nancy Greenspan

Independent Scholar

Abstract

2020 is the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One scientist's work was pivotal not only in creating atomic bombs for the US but also for Russia and Britain. His name was Klaus Fuchs.
German by birth, British by naturalization, Communist by conviction, Fuchs was a fearless Nazi resister, brilliant scientist, and infamous spy. The British convicted him of espionage in 1950 for handing over the designs of the plutonium bomb to the Russians and he went down in history as one of the most dangerous agents in American and British history. He put an end to America's nuclear hegemony and single handedly heated up the Cold War. How should history judge his actions?
The moral ambiguities of the times in which Fuchs lived and the ideals with which he struggled give the backdrop for that question.

As a university student in Kiel, Germany, Fuchs stood up to Nazi terror without flinching and became a Communist largely because they were the main resisters to the Nazis. For revenge, Nazi students threw him in the Kiel Fjord in mid-February to kill him. After escaping to Britain in 1933, he was arrested as a German émigré in 1940 and sent to an internment camp.
After his release, Fuchs' loyalties were firmly split. He fervidly worked on the atomic bomb so that the Nazis didn't gain it first. At the same time, he didn't want 'western imperialists' to victimize Russia. On joining the bomb project, he handed over top secret research to them in 1941 and continued for years from deep within the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos.
After the nuclear explosions in August 1945, Los Alamos scientists futilely urged the American and British governments to include Russia in a pact to control atomic weapons. But Fuchs didn't talk; he took action, allowing Russia to test a bomb one to two years earlier than expected. The main military effect was Truman's choice not to drop an atomic bomb on Korea partly because of Russia. Was this a good or bad outcome?

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Presenter 3

Edward Shils and Cold War Communication Research: The MIT Indian Intellectuals Project, 1953-1961

Jefferson Pooley

Muhlenberg College

Abstract

Based on extensive archival research, this paper provides a backstage account of U.S. sociologist Edward Shils' well-known 1950s work on Indian intellectuals. His reflections, based on an extended visit to the subcontinent and dozens of interviews with its intellectuals in the mid-1950s, were published as standalone essays and in the slim 1961 book The Intellectual Between Tradition and Modernity: The Indian Situation. Shils framed the works as distinterested scholarship, animated by the biggest themes-like the intellectual's proper place in society. As the paper shows, however, Shils' project was commissioned as applied Cold War communication research, one of three initial studies sponsored by MIT's new Research Program on International Communications, established in 1953 with Ford Foundation funds. The Research Program was housed in MIT's Center for International Studies (CIS), founded the previous year with secret CIA funding. The "international communications" label in the MIT Program's title, as the Cold War intensified in the late 1940s, had taken hold as a euphemism for propaganda research aimed at the new Soviet and Chinese enemies. By the early 1950s-when Shils' study got underway-many leading American sociologists, political scientists, and social psychologists were working on similar projects. The paper reconstructs the career of Shils' project, through to its classified MIT reports, which positioned Indian intellectuals as potential "opinion leaders" with native credibility in the Cold War struggle. The paper draws a contrast to the published, front-stage works set in a scholarly key.

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Presenter 4

Thought Experiments: Large-Scale Environmental Engineering during the Cold War

Matthias Dörries

University of Strasbourg

Abstract

The 1950s to the early 1970s saw a flood of proposed imaginative large-scale environmental engineering projects. Parallel to American military interdisciplinary studies on the strategic use of geoengineering as a weapon, there was an abundant literature on terraforming and planetary engineering. Elitist research institutions like the RAND Corporation and the Hudson Institute were lavishly funded in the expectation of insight and solutions to current and future political, scientific, and economic problems via thought experiments and developing scenarios. Focussing on Carl Sagan and his propositions for environmental and planetary engineering, I will look at the social and political settings of these scenarios, at what made these speculations legitimate to scientists, and address the status of thought experiments within the scientific community of the postwar period. What fueled scientists' enthusiasm and wild speculations during the post-war decades, rocketing off the safe ground of what might be regarded as solid scientific inquiry? Which speculations were made in public, and which remained in closed circles? Who financed these studies? What distinguished scientists' speculations from fiction? Was science fiction just another variant of technological forecasting?

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