Secondary Source: “Overcoming the Arctic in Cold War Alaska”

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.

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Posted in Alaska, Human experimentation, Militarization, Science in the United States | Leave a comment

Secondary Source: “Too Hot to Handle: The Controversial Hunt for Uranium in Greenland”

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.

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Posted in Atoms for Peace, Nuclear energy, Science in Denmark, Science in Greenland, Uranium Exploration | Leave a comment

Secondary Source: “Domesticating 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.

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Posted in Cold War domesticity, Cold War Propaganda, Technology in the Cold War | Leave a comment

Secondary Source: “The Universe, the Cold War, and Dialectical Materialism.”

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.

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Posted in Dialectical Materialism, Science and Politics, Soviet cosmology | Leave a comment

Secondary Source: “Sputnik and the Soviets”

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.

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Posted in Cold War Propaganda, ICBMs, Space race | Leave a comment

Secondary Source: “Entering the nuclear arms race”

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.[1] 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.

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Posted in Physics in the Cold War, Science and Ideology, Soviet Nuclear Science | Leave a comment

Secondary Source: “Sergei Korolev: The Rocket Genuis behind Yuri Gagarin”

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.

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Posted in Cold War espionage, Science in the USSR, Space race | Leave a comment