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Science and Technology in the Global Cold War$
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Naomi Oreskes and John Krige

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262027953

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262027953.001.0001

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Introduction

Introduction

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction
Source:
Science and Technology in the Global Cold War
Author(s):

Naomi Oreskes

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262027953.003.0015

The Cold War was a period of unprecedented national governmental support for scientific and technological research and development, not only in the superpowers, but throughout the globe. Why did the Cold War trigger so much interest in science and technology, and around what kinds of science and technology was that interest centered? Ever since the famous debate in the 1980s between historians Paul Forman and Daniel Kevles, historians have been trying to understand the relationships between Cold War geopolitical goals, aspiration, and anxieties and the support of scientific and technological research. While nearly all historians acknowledge these relationships, few have made compelling causal claims. In this volume, we attempt to go beyond the Cold War as political backdrop—behind the Cold War as miasma—to explore and explain specific causal relationships that enabled particular forms of scientific research in particular national (and in some cases transnational) contexts, and impeded or inhibited others. Our authors find that the Cold War created both substantial opportunities and substantive constraints, and that whatever the particular science involved—whether related to weapons and their delivery systems, agriculture, isotopes, the speed of light in a vacuum or the transmission of sound in the sea—and whatever the political system in which that science was operating—capitalist, communist, or hybrid—the knowledge produced bore some significant relation to the goals of the nation-state (or nation state-equivalent, in the case of the U.S.S.R.) that was helping to procure it.

Keywords:   Cold War, Science, technology, nuclear weapons, Dan Kevles, Paul Forman, Forman-Kevles debate, Nation-state

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