Synopses & Reviews
This book is a history of the complex relations between scientific advisors, primarily physicists, and U.S. presidents in their role as decision makers about nuclear weapons and military strategy. The story, unsurprisingly, is one of considerable tension between the "experts" and the politicians, as scientists seek to influence policy and presidents alternate between accepting their advice and resisting or even ignoring it. First published in 1992, the book has been brought up to date to include the experiences of science advisors to President Clinton. In addition, the texts of eleven crucial documents, from the Einstein-Szilard letter to President Roosevelt (1939) to the announcement of the Strategic Defense Initiative by President Reagan (1983), have been added as appendixes.
This book is a history of the complex relations between scientific advisors, primarily physicists, and U.S. presidents in their role as decision makers about nuclear weapons and military strategy.
“This is an important book. . . . One strength of the work is its thoroughness in tracing the steps at which science advice has influenced momentous decisions. Another is how it delineates the gradual erosion in the impact of science advice. . . . There are many other lessons to learn from reading the book carefully, and I strongly recommend it.” —Wolfgang K. H. Panofsky, Physics Today
Scientific advice to US presidents on nuclear and military strategy from Roosevelt to Clinton.
About the Author
Gregg Herken is Historian and Curator at the Space History Department of the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
Table of Contents
Part I. Urgent Appeals, 1939-1952: The Advent of Nuclear Weapons: 1. A closely knit group of people: the decision to build the atomic bomb; 2. No acceptable alternative: the decision to use the atomic bomb; 3. Necessarily an evil thing: the debate over the H-bomb; 4. A point of no return: the opportunity for a nuclear 'standstill'; Part II. Fragile Hopes, 1953-1960: The Impetus Towards Arms Control: 5. Racing toward catastrophe: atoms for peace and war; 6. An age of danger... from the Killian report to Sputnik; 7. A vested interest in this field: the President's science advisory committee and the test ban; Part III. Guarded Futures, 1961-1988: The Perils and Promises of New Technology: 8. 'Where a fresh start is badly needed: politics and science in the Kennedy administration; 9. A nation cannot be built with gadgets: Johnson, Hornig, and the Vietnam war; 10. No longer as adviser but as citizen: the crisis of science advising under Nixon and Ford; 11. We want you to know of our judgment: science and conflict in the Carter administration; 12. The president doesn't care about wavelengths: the Reagan revolution and the origins of SDI; Conclusion: speaking the truth to power; Appendixes; notes; Bibliography; Index.