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Letter from Joshua Lederberg to Jerome B. Wiesner

Publication Date
  • Education
  • Philosophy


June 3, 1966 Dr. Jerome B. Wiesner Dean, Faculty of Science Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, Massachusetts Dear Jerry: Thank you very much for your phone advice a couple of week5 ago, which disturbed me to make a more reasonable concession as agtinst (Ino travel", and visit Washington to make the seminar on Senator Hsrris's committee. I guess I would be perplexed to try to foretell what the long range impact of this is going to be, but I certainly had to agree with your evaluation of Senator Karris, and I enjoyed meeting him very much. I guess the main philosophical issue at the seminar was a debate between Al Weinberg and myself about the fundamental premises of social support for science, what he calls the Baconian vs. the Newtonian point of view. m thinking about this was finally triggered by Senator Harris's remark that our investment in science to date had certainly paid off, as witnessed by our preeminent technological, hence econ&nic, position in the world. It was a little difficult for me to trace this directly to the factual information generated by basic science in this country and I realized that it was the kind of education underlying the later performance of our technologists that we have to look for this position. So I try to build a ,case that while there might be the most immediate interest in the support of identifiable projects, and we should by no means overturn the project system;ynevertheless each research project is in fact subsidized by the intellectual context of the institution in which it is carried out and has certainly a corresponding respnsibility for the education of the practM.oners of these useful arts. I am sure none of these idea5 are novel to you, and as you have been quoted at least once, the main resistance to the broadening of research support is likely to come precisely from our most monomaniacal scientific colleagues. Certainly there will be ample ground5 for distress if we do not evolve a mixe

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