Farish, Matthew. “The Lab and the Land: Overcoming the Arctic in Cold War Alaska.” Isis 104.1 (2013): 1-29.
Entry by Molly Finlayson
In anticipating the necessity of future Arctic warfare with the Soviet bloc, the United States military feared that its forces would be put to significant disadvantage by the extreme weather conditions of the north. Military leaders were especially concerned about soldiers’ issues with morale and “cold injuries” (9). In the late 1940s, immediately following the end of the Second World War, the Alaskan territory saw the establishment of several new military bases and government-funded research laboratories. In his article, “The Lab and the Land: Overcoming the Arctic in Cold War Alaska,” Matthew Farish examines the history of military-sponsored scientific experiments in Alaska during the Cold War. Though about an obscure and long-isolated part of North America, Farish’s article relates to several key themes in the history of Cold War science. These include government funding for science with emphasis on military application, the militarization of previously non-military-related matters, and the suspension of ethical considerations in the name of national security.
Henry Nielsen and Henrik Knudsen (2013), “Too Hot to Handle: The Controversial Hunt for Uranium in Greenland in the Early Cold War,” Centaurus, 55:3, 319-343.
Entry by Juliet Bailin
Standing before the UN on December 8, 1953, Eisenhower introduced an Atomic Energy Agency to direct the sharing of atomic materials for “peaceful activities.” He said atomic weapons “must be put into the hands of those who will know how to strip its military casing and adapt it to the arts of peace.” The Danes held their hands outstretched. A year after Eisenhower’s speech, the government of Denmark unveiled its own Atomic Energy Commission (AEK), led by renowned Danish physicist Niels Bohr. The AEK’s creation was motivated by Denmark’s dependence on imported coal. One of its first initiatives to identify alternative energy sources was to send uranium explorations into Greenland, then a Danish colony. The ultimately unsuccessful explorations exemplify how neutral countries could present Cold War science as merely science during the Cold War.
Castillo, Greg. “Domesticating the Cold War: Household Consumption as Propaganda in Marshall Plan Germany.” Journal of Contemporary History 40, no. 2 (2005): 261-88.
Entry by Rose Bailey
In his article entitled “Domesticating the Cold War: Household Consumption as Propaganda in Marshall Plan Germany,” Greg Castillo analyzes the efficacy and impact of US propaganda campaigns in East and West Berlin during the Cold War. He explains that the United States’ campaign centered on exhibitions that demonstrated the luxuries of domestic life in the US.
Kragh, Helge. “The Universe, the Cold War, and Dialectical Materialism.” arXiv.org, 15 Apr 2012. Web. 1 Mar 2015.
Entry by Cyndia Yu
While typically discussions of political ideologies influencing science during the Cold War conjure up thoughts of Trofim Lysenko and his influence on Soviet agronomy, other areas of Soviet science, particularly the physical sciences, are perceived as comparable to their Western counterparts (Kragh 2). This is seen in particular with the Soviet space program and, arguably, the development of nuclear weapons. One notable exception is the study of cosmology, or the examination of the origin and development of the universe. The middle part of the 20th century featured development of cosmological models that included a beginning of the universe and a finite limit on its size, both of which reflected an idealism and implied religious intervention in direct conflict with the dialectical materialism so prized by the Politburo. Communist cosmology, as formulated in the late 1950’s, featured a universe infinite in size and matter, with no beginning or end, and matter and its related physical forms as the only “real” structures in the universe.
Sagdeev, R. (2007). “HISTORY OF SCIENCE: Sputnik And The Soviets.” Science, 318, 51-52.
Entry by Nicholas Scahill
Roald Sagdeev, in Sputnik and the Soviets, discusses the launch of the first artificial satellites by the Soviet Union, Sputnik-1, 2, and 3, and their role in furthering the ‘unhealthy’ militarization and political contamination of the Soviet space program. According to this account, the motivation behind the initial launch of Sputnik was not “at all to shock the world;” however, even those immersed deeply in relevant areas of Soviet science at the time, namely the Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy, were caught off guard by the events that took place on October 4th, 1957. These actions were merely a product of the Soviet’s attempts to create the first intercontinental ballistic missiles. These plans were initiated as an “asymmetrical” solution to the susceptibility that Stalin and the USSR felt as a result of the nuclear demonstrations put on by the US during WWII.
Holloway, David. “Entering the nuclear arms race: the Soviet decision to build the atomic bomb, 1939-45.” Social Studies of Science 11.2 (1981): 159-197.
Entry by Michael Loughlin
In “Entering the Nuclear Arms Race: The Soviet Decision to Build the Atomic Bomb, 1939-45” David Holloway offers a history of the Soviets’ decision to invest in the scientific pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Holloway structures the article by focusing on three main turning points in the Soviet nuclear decision-making process: (1) the 1940 decision of the Soviet Academy of Sciences not to approach the government for increased funding for atomic research, (2) Stalin’s 1942 decision to develop a small atomic bomb project, and (3) the Soviet Union’s 1945 decision to make the development of a nuclear bomb a national priority in response to the American bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Holloway’s account of the first of these “critical junctures” sheds light on specific ways Communist ideology restrained the progress of Soviet atomic science, while his discussion of Stalin’s 1942 decision exposes certain striking similarities between the American and Soviet decision-making processes. Together, analyzing these two “junctures” (1940 and 1942) highlights the importance of the evolving landscape of international science to the development of Soviet nuclear physics.
Mackie, Robin. “Sergei Korolev: The Rocket Genius behind Yuri Gagarin.” The Guardian March 12, 2011.
Entry by DJ Link
Around the time of the switch in Soviet leadership from Stalin to Khrushchev in 1953, science in the Soviet Union began to undergo a dramatic shift. Under Stalin, Soviet science was to be controlled by the government and remain a secret. Stalin implemented many publication restrictions and pro-secrecy policies in an attempt to allow the Soviets to remain a leg-up on the science of the rest of the world, particularly science in the United States. Once Khrushchev took over, he began to do away with the publication restrictions and allowed Soviet discoveries to be shared. Unlike Stalin, Khrushchev thought that science needed to be shared, and believed in the use of propaganda to depict the power of Soviet science and Communism to the rest of the world. Khrushchev, concerned with making great leaps in science, focused on and sought to win the “space race” to show the rest of the world how powerful the Soviet Union was.
Danian Hu, “The Reception of Relativity in China”. Isis, Vol. 98, No. 3 (September 2007).
Entry by Dennis Lee
Ideology and scientific theories are often at odds and, based on the case of Trofim Lysenko, one expects that these two do not mix well. However, Lysenkoism is not the only incident involving both ideology and a scientific theory. In this article, Danian Hu discusses relativity and its history in 20th century China, including the Cold War.
Robin, Ron Theodore. “Prison Camps and Culture Wars: The Korean Brainwashing Controversy.” The Making of the Cold War Enemy: Culture and Politics in the Military-intellectual Complex. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2001.
Entry by Katie Lantz
Fear and paranoia of a volatile, ineffable, Communist superpower plagued the government, military, and American public in the period that marked the height of the Cold War. This overwhelming paranoia was exacerbated in 1953 as POW’s returned home after the Korean War. To the unsettling surprise of many, a group of 21 American POW’s refused repatriation, prompting rigorous examinations of POW conduct and deeper investigation into Korean methods of control. During this time, the government commissioned the help of a select group of psychologists, sociologists, and behavioral scientists to explain the potentiality of new enemy warfare and devise ways to prevent its grave consequences. In The Making of the Cold War Enemy, Ron Robin analyzes the way in which behavioral scientists in particular shaped US perception of the communist enemy and influenced decision making and strategy within Cold War military endeavors and quandaries such as the Korean armistice, psychological warfare, and the Vietnam War. Robin’s thesis is that through a structured paradigm that attempted to quantify and standardize enemy actions and idiosyncrasies, behavioral scientists reduced the communist enemy to a primitive entity operating on instincts that fostered impulsive and unchanging behavior. According to Robin, behavioral scientists did not do much to alleviate the pervasive fear among American society that it was facing a veritable and severely manic Communist enemy.
Nicholas Buchanan, “The Atomic Meal: The Cold War and Irradiated Foods, 1945–1963.” History and Technology: An International Journal 21.2 (2005). Print.
Entry by Sonya Jacobs
Food irradiation is a method of preservation that eliminates food-borne pathogens by utilizing the energy of ionizing radiation. In the decades following World War II, American food technologists insisted that irradiation would radically transform food processing in America. The Food and Drug Administration even went so far as to compare the development of irradiation to the “discovery of cooking” (227).
In The Atomic Meal: The Cold War and Irradiated Foods, 1945-1963, Nicholas Buchanan describes in detail the quest to create irradiated food, a quest that involved over 120 military, government, industrial, and academic institutions. Buchanan goes on to trace the networks that formed between these institutions and study their motivations for developing the technology. As we can already see, the story of food irradiation is fairly complex. It is a story of Cold War science.
Robillard, G. “The Explorer Rocket Research Program.” American Rocket Society Annual Meeting; 13; 17-21 Nov. 1958; New York, NY; United States. 31 October 1958.
Entry by Jonathan Jackson
This primary source is a technical report published by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at California Institute of Technology in Pasadena California describing the current state of the Explorer Rocket Program at the end of 1958. The Explorer program was a series of US missions to put artificial satellites into orbit around the Earth. By the beginning of 1959, the Explorer program had attempted six launches and was successful four times. The Explorer program has widely been considered a huge success for American science, as it led to the discovery of the Van Allen Belts as well as other significant geophysical properties of Earth, and it marked the entrance of the United States into the era of extra-terrestrial space travel (Smithsonian Institute).
Fisher, Roger. “Preventing nuclear war.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 37.3 (Mar 1981): 11 – 17. Print.
Entry by Heemyung Hwang
In “Preventing nuclear war”, Harvard law professor Roger Fisher has an ambitious goal: he would, in fact, like to prevent nuclear war. To do this, he first argues through analogy that the true problem behind the threat of nuclear war is not the Soviet Union, is not the proliferation of nuclear weapons, is not any of those things that experts are focusing on. Instead, the problem is us; the problem is we the people. The problem is our old, entrenched ways of thinking.
Huntley, W. (1996). The Kiwi that Roared: Nuclear-Free New Zealand in a Nuclear-Armed World, The Nonproliferation Review, 1-19.
Entry by Emily Gusse
The super-powers of the United States and the Soviet Union often dominate the Cold War narrative, causing the immense impact of their conflict on the rest of the world to be neglected. Recent scholars, such as Odd Arne Westad, have acknowledged that “The Global Cold War” has undeniably shaped the world we live in today, influencing international politics, economics, and military affairs (Westad, 2007). Wade Huntley’s article provides a unique example of the influence that the “nuclear-armed world” had on a small country not usually associated with the Cold War: New Zealand. In the aftermath of World War II, many small states looked to find security by aligning themselves with a larger and benevolent state’s power. New Zealand and Australia found shelter from the perceived security threats of Japan and global Communist expansion under the United States’ deterrent “nuclear umbrella,” culminating in the 1951 Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty (ANZUS). By engaging in this alliance, New Zealand offered implicit support of the United States’ nuclear and political affairs in return for a security guarantee. This agreement exemplifies the Cold War race for the non-aligned world and shows that many smaller states felt that the only way to secure protection was to engage in alliance with a nuclear super-power.
Chang, Gordon H. “JFK, China, and the Bomb.” The Journal of American History (1988): 1287-1310.
Entry by Ankit Gupta
The relationship between the Soviet Union and China in the post-war period was critical in determining the multilateral policies against nuclear testing and development. As a result, this topic is important to understanding the Limited Test Ban Treaty and other international agreements to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons. In “JFK, China, and the Bomb,” Gordon Chang focuses on the relationship between the Chinese and Soviet governments with respect to the Chinese bomb efforts, and also argues that it had a critical influence on how U.S. President Kennedy approached entering a nuclear weapons armistice with the Soviet Union. This source explores several ideas, including the American interest in exploiting the rift in between the Communist powers, the Soviet desire to remain threatening to China without appearing to bow to Western demands, and the resultant breakdown of Sino-Soviet relations.
Preble, Christopher A. “”Who Ever Believed in the ‘Missile Gap’?”: John F. Kennedy and the Politics of National Security.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 33.4 (2003): 801-26. Web. 2 Apr. 2015. (Jstor)
Entry by Andrew Emmett
“Who Ever Believed in the ‘Missile Gap’?”: John F. Kennedy and the Politics of National Security” by Christopher Preble highlights the events surrounding the political saga beginning in 1950’s America of the supposed missile gap between the United States of America and the Soviet Union. It was believed by many that the Soviets were building a stockpile of inter-continental ballistic missiles far superior to the U.S stock pile. The notion of Soviet military superiority was used as one of John F. Kennedy’s tools to undermine the Eisenhower administration and from which Kennedy was able to build a platform leading into the 1960 presidential election. Through this political scaremongering Kennedy built on his already strong public profile going into 1960.
Rongzhen, Nie. Inside the Red Star: The Memoirs of Marshal Nie Rongzhen. Trans. Nieh Jung-chen hiu i lu. Beijing: New World Press: Distributed by China International Book Trading Corporation (Guoji Shudian), 1988. 785.
Entry by Mofeyifoluwa Edun
“This was a shorter period than the decades I spent in the army, yet it left an indelible impression on me. For this job was also a fierce battle, though it was fought in another form in a peaceful environment.” (662)
Marshal Nie Rongzhen writes this statement in reference to his leadership of Chinese projects to foster rapid advancement in science and technology between 1956 and 1966. Rongzhen devotes an entire chapter of his memoirs, “Inside the Red Star: The Memoirs of Marhsal Nie Rongzhen” to giving an account of his efforts to catch China up to the levels of Science and Technology in the developed world. (633)
Karp, Alexander. “The Cold War in the Soviet School: A Case Study of Mathematics Education.” European Education 38.4 (2006): 23-43.
Entry by Emma Dwight
Karp’s research examines the effects of Cold War thinking and pressures on mathematics education in Soviet schools.
Inculcating “Soviet Patriotism” was seen as an important task of schooling. In maths classes, word problems were encouraged as a method of showcasing the achievements and superiority of the Soviet Union, and to inspire pride in the ‘Great Building Projects of Communism’ in particular. Other favourite topics included Stalin’s five year plan, and the improvements seen in countries of the Warsaw pact. One of the few Soviet journals of mathematics teaching frequently published articles demonstrating this use of word problems. An example from the journal is given:
Pollock, Ethan. “‘Attack the Detractors with Certainty of Total Success’: The Pavlov Session of 1950.” Chap. 6 in Stalin and the Soviet science wars. Princeton University Press, 2006. 136-167.
Entry by Ange Clayton
The extending of the government’s hand in science took place in many of the larger international powers during the Cold War era. In the Soviet Union, Stalin and other government officials used ideology as an instrument of control within the sciences. In chapter six of Ethn Pollock’s book Stalin and the Soviet science wars, one such instance of this is analyzed; the “Pavlov Session” of 1950. Pollock argues that this conference changed the direction of Soviet psychology and physiology and that the session illustrates how Stalin and Soviet ideology harmed scientific fields and their continued progress.
Tolz, Vladimir, and Julie Corwin. “Soviet Reactions to Foreign Broadcasting in the 1950s.” Cold War Broadcasting: Impact on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe: A Collection of Studies and Documents. By A. Ross. Johnson and R. Eugene Parta. Budapest: Central European UP, 2010. 277-98. Print.
Entry by David Becerra
The chapter “Soviet Reactions to Foreign Broadcasting in the 1950s” written by Valdimir Tolz and Julie Corwin describes the influence and role of Western radio programs in the Soviet society using newly revealed documents and primary sources. The beginning of the section discusses how Stalin and later Khrushchev utilized radio broadcasts. In particular, the authors state that Soviet leaders intercepted foreign communications as a means to learn how Westerners viewed the Soviet Union. For example, after death of Stalin in 1953, radio intercepts focused on how the Western world reacted to what was called de-Stalinization. In addition, Tolz argues that the information gathered by the government allowed Stalin and later Khrushchev to control their image overseas.