Brown Bag Lecture: Rethinking Industrial Patronage of Academic Research in the Early Cold War

Lunchtime Lectures
Monday, February 27, 2017
12:00 p.m.–1:00 p.m.
Chemical Heritage Foundation
315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
United States

Join us for a Brown Bag Lecture with Joe Martin from the Consortium for History of Science, Technology, and Medicine.

Robert Maynard Hutchins, erstwhile president and chancellor of the University of Chicago, recalled in 1963, “My view, based on long and painful observation, is that professors are somewhat worse than other people, and that scientists are somewhat worse than other professors.” This outlook was part of a cohesive moral philosophy of education that motivated his efforts to keep University of Chicago scientists insulated from outside—especially military—influence after World War II. Perhaps unexpectedly, his science faculty embraced his plan to fund a series of new, ambitious research institutes with numerous small subscriptions from industry, seeing in it a way to protect their commitment to basic research. In the same era the University of Michigan deployed a similar strategy to attract industry funding. Michigan developed its industrial partnerships in the context of a laboratory that doubled as a living war memorial, enlisting businesses by appealing to their sense of corporate responsibility and suggesting a shared obligation to prevent a government monopoly on basic research.

Historians have shown how some university-industry collaborations supported American military interests during the Cold War. They have demonstrated, for instance, that institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University cultivated a cozy relationship with both industry and government after World War II, at times steering their research toward economic and military interests. Studies of this type of relationship have shaped current historical understanding of Cold War science, and they suggest that individual institutions possessed very little latitude to craft the types of relationships with industry they thought most conducive to their institutional goals. A broader survey of institutions will situate existing understanding of academia-industry partnerships within a larger, knottier story about American science, technology, academia, and industry. This talk presents case studies of the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan and describes how they motivate a more systematic rethinking of the role of industrial patronage in reshaping Cold War science.

Joseph D. Martin is a National Science Foundation Research Scholar and Fellow-in-Residence at the Consortium for History of Science, Technology, and Medicine. He also holds a visiting research fellowship at the Centre for History and Philosophy of Science, University of Leeds. He completed a PhD in history of science, technology, and medicine at the University of Minnesota and has taught at Colby College and Michigan State University. His research addresses the history of the physical sciences, especially solid-state and condensed matter physics, and scientific and technical institutions in Cold War America.