Science and Technology

Ronald E. Doel and

Zuoyue Wang

Science did not become a major concern of U.S. foreign policy until the twentieth century. This is not to say that science was unimportant to the young republic. U.S. leaders recognized that, in the Age of Reason, the prestige of science was part of the rivalry between nations. Yet through the nineteenth century science was primarily linked to foreign policy as an adjunct of trade relations or military exploration. By contrast, mechanical ability was central to the identity of Americans, and debates about the proper role of technology in American relations to Britain and Europe raged through the late nineteenth century, as the United States gained worldwide recognition for creating the modern technological nation.

Technology—and enthusiasm for technical solutions to social problems—remained important in American foreign relations through the twentieth century. But its position relative to science changed markedly after 1900. By the start of World War II, science became a new and urgent topic for policymakers, inspiring an uneasy relationship that profoundly challenged both diplomats and scientists. As the Cold War began, the U.S. government funded new institutions and programs that linked science with diplomatic efforts and national security aims. Some were cloaked in secrecy; others were incorporated into major foreign aid efforts such as the Marshall Plan. By the late twentieth century, policymakers viewed science and technology as synergistic twins, significant yet often unpredictable agents of economic, political, and social change on both national and global scales.


Badash, Lawrence. Scientists and the Development of Nuclear Weapons: From Fission to the Limited Test Ban Treaty, 1939–1963. Atlantic Highlands, N.J., 1995.

Bamford, James. Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency: From the Cold War Through the Dawn of a New Century. New York, 2001.

Barth, Kai-Henrik. "Science and Politics in Early Nuclear Test Ban Negotiations." Physics Today 51 (1998): 34–39.

Cohen, I. Bernard. Science and the Founding Fathers: Science in the Political Thought of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and James Madison. New York, 1995.

Cueto, Marcos, ed. Missionaries of Science: The Rockefeller Foundation and Latin America. Bloomington, Ind., 1994.

DeGreiff, Alexis. "A History of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, 1960–1980. Ideology and Practice in a United Nations Institution for Scientific Co-operation for the Third World Development." Ph.D. dissertation. Imperial College London, 2001.

Divine, Robert A. The Sputnik Challenge. New York, 1993.

Doel, Ronald E., and Allan A. Needell. "Science, Scientists, and the CIA: Balancing International Ideals, National Needs, and Professional Opportunities." In Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones and Christopher Andrew, eds. Eternal Vigilance: Fifty Years of the CIA. London, 1997.

Dorsey, Kurk. The Dawn of Conservation Diplomacy: U.S.–Canadian Wildlife Protection Treaties in the Progressive Era. Seattle, 1998.

Dupree, A. Hunter. Science in the Federal Government: A History of Policies and Activities. Baltimore, 1986.

Graham, Loren R. What Have We Learned About Science and Technology from the Russian Experience? Stanford, Calif., 1998.

Hays, Samuel P. Beauty, Health, and Permanence: Environmental Politics in the United States, 1955–1985. Cambridge, Mass., 1987.

Hindle, Brooke, and Steven Lubar. Engines of Change: The American Industrial Revolution, 1790–1860. Washington, D.C., 1986.

Holloway, David. Stalin and the Bomb: The Soviet Union and Atomic Energy, 1939–1956. New Haven, Conn., 1994.

Hughes, Thomas P. American Genesis: A Century of Invention and Technological Enthusiasm, 1870–1970. New York, 1989.

Kevles, Daniel J. "'Into Hostile Political Camps': The Reorganization of International Science in World War I." Isis 62 (1970): 47–60.

LaFeber, Walter. "Technology and U.S. Foreign Relations." Diplomatic History 24 (2000): 1–19.

Manzione, Joseph. "'Amusing and Amazing and Practical and Military': The Legacy of Scientific Internationalism in American Foreign Policy, 1945–1963." Diplomatic History 24 (2000): 21–56.

Needell, Allan A. Science, the Cold War, and the American State: Lloyd V. Berkner and the Balance of Professional Ideals. London, 2000.

Rydell, Robert W., John E. Findling, and Kimberly D. Pelle. Fair America: World's Fairs in the United States. Washington, D.C., 2000.

Schröder-Gudehus, Brigitte. "Nationalism and Internationalism." In R. C. Olby et al., eds. Companion to the History of Modern Science. London, 1990.

Skolnikoff, Eugene B. The Elusive Transformation: Science, Technology, and the Evolution of International Politics. Princeton, N.J., 1993.

Wang, Jessica. American Science in an Age of Anxiety: Scientists, Anticommunism, and the Cold War. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1999.

Wang, Zuoyue. "U.S.–Chinese Scientific Exchange: A Case Study of State-Sponsored Scientific Internationalism During the Cold War and Beyond." Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences 30, no. 1 (1999): 249–277.

Weiner, Charles. "A New Site for the Seminar: The Refugees and American Physics in the Thirties." Perspectives in American History 2 (1968): 190–234.

Wright, Susan. "Evolution of Biological Warfare Policy." In Susan Wright, ed. Preventing a Biological Arms Race. Cambridge, Mass., 1990.

See also Environmental Diplomacy ; Nuclear Strategy and Diplomacy ; Outer Space ; Philanthropy .

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:


Science and Technology forum