Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Great War and the Growth of Government, Part II:
Governments Sponsoring Scientific Research

According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the current federal spending on R&D is $146 billion, slightly more than half of which is defense related. From early days the U.S. government has taken an active interest in scientific matters. During the 19th century the Coast and Geodetic Survey, the Naval Observatory, the Department of Agriculture, and the Geological Survey were established. The First World War, however, helped establish and entrench state-sponsored and -directed Research and Development as a public duty and necessity. Rapid development of new weaponry, ersatz strategic materials, and more productive manufacturing processes became an imperative of national survival in total war.

Rocketry Pioneer Robert H. Goddard
Developed the Prototype for the Bazooka During WWI

The World War I  model of the command economy in these new technologies, as well as in investment and distribution, was enduring and seductive. Thorstein Veblen, Herbert Hoover, and assorted technocrats invoked it in the United States.  Later, their successes in the war would inspire the New Deal of the future President, Assistant Navy Secretary Franklin Roosevelt.

As the American Civil War produced the National Academy of Sciences and Land Grant colleges, the Great War produced the National Research Council and NASA's predecessor, the National Advisory Council for Aeronautics. The Smithsonian Institution was called upon to recommend scientists to advise and staff many projects, such as Dr. Goddard's work for the Navy..

Source: The Heavens and the Earth by Walter McDougall, National Science Foundation

1 comment:

  1. While I agree with this, you left out medical improvements/technology. WW1 and the pandemic of that timeframe advance medical skills/procedures/education more than anything else in the previoys 100 years.