Science and National Security during the Cold War

History 103S.002

Spring 2013
3104 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
M 12-2
Douglas O'Reagan is a PhD candidate in the History Department focusing the history of science/technology and the history of espionage/intelligence. His dissertation topic examines the efforts by the U.S., U.K., and France to extract German science and technology following the Second World War.


This seminar will examine the shifting relationship between national security and science and technology in the United States and Soviet Union following the Second World War. The importance of science-based technologies in fighting and winning the war led to new opportunities for scientists, such as increased funding, prestige, and sometimes political influence. Science took on new importance in diplomacy, espionage, and military planning. However, perception as a valuable national security asset also led to new challenges and dangers for scientists, including conflicts between 'classified science' and ideals of openness, persecution for 'disloyalty' as judged in the ideological context of the Cold War, and popular backlashes at the heightened authority of scientists in cases such as the anti-nuclear movement. How these developments shaped science, and how science and technology shaped the Cold War, are the major themes addressed by the assigned readings.