Science The Endless Frontier

Talk about ancient history! This influential report was written by Vannevar Bush in 1945.  This more constructive Bush had coordinated R&D during WWII with great success, including the Manhattan Project, military applications of radar, sonar, the proximity fuse, the Norden bomb sight, and many others that had helped the Allies win the war.  Near the end of the war, he was asked by President Franklin Roosevelt to study how R&D could be organized after the war for peacetime benefits.  One recommendation led to the National Science Foundation, but there is much more in the report.  Today when we seem to be at a loss for justifying investments in R&D, the report’s eloquence on the benefits of R&D, particularly basic research, to the nation in economic prosperity and national security can be an inspiration.

Bush’s letter of transmittal closes with, “Science offers a largely unexplored hinterland for the pioneer who has the tools for his task. The rewards of such exploration both for the Nation and the individual are great. Scientific progress is one essential key to our security as a nation, to our better health, to more jobs, to a higher standard of living, and to our cultural progress.”

Another snippet from later in the report:

“Progress in the war against disease depends upon a flow of new scientific knowledge. New products, new industries, and more jobs require continuous additions to knowledge of the laws of nature, and the application of that knowledge to practical purposes. Similarly, our defense against aggression demands new knowledge so that we can develop new and improved weapons. This essential, new knowledge can be obtained only through basic scientific research.”

The report is at:

http://www.nsf.gov/about/history/vbush1945.htm

Here’s Bush’s Wikipedia biography.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vannevar_Bush

R. D. Shelton

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