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Introduction: Physics, Technology, and Technics during the Interwar Period.

Authors
  • Katzir, Shaul1
Type
Published Article
Journal
Science in context
Publication Date
Sep 01, 2018
Volume
31
Issue
3
Pages
251–261
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1017/S0269889718000273
PMID: 30182869
Source
Medline
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

Historians, philosophers, and physicists portray the 1920s and 1930s as a period of major theoretical breakthrough in physics, quantum mechanics, which led to the expansion of physics into the core of the atom and the growth and strengthening of the discipline. These important developments in scientific inquiry into the micro-world and light have turned historical attention away from other significant historical processes and from other equally important causes for the expansion of physics. World War II, on the other hand, is often seen as the watershed moment when physics achieved new levels of social and technical engagement at a truly industrial scale. Historians have shown that military interests and government funding have shaped physics to unprecedented degree, and according to some, to the extent of discontinuity with earlier practices of research (Forman 1987; Kevles 1990; Kaiser 2002). In this vein, Stuart Leslie wrote, "Nothing in the prewar experience fully prepared academic scientists and their institutions for the scale and scope of a wartime mobilization that would transform the university, industry, and the federal government and their mutual interrelationships" (Leslie 1993, 6). While one can never be fully ready for novelties, the contributors to this issue show that developments in interwar physics did prepare participants for their cold war interactions with industry and government.

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