NOTES ON SELECTION OF MEMORANDA
During the course of his consultancy, William T. Golden spoke with over 150 individuals, many of them on more than one occasion. A complete list of those individuals, together with the dates of the relevant conversations, appears in a separate appendix. Preparing a definitive edition of the more than 200 memoranda that resulted from those conversations, consistent with recognized scholarly norms, would be a daunting proposition. This volume makes no pretense of being either definitive or scholarly. Rather, it has been compiled with the expectation that a variety of readers will be interested in a limited but still representative selection of Goldenís chronicle of a critical era.
An editorís biases are necessarily betrayed by the act of selecting a small fraction of historical documents from an abundance of riches. Two selection criteria were used, both of which reflect this editorís Whig-historical bias. First, memoranda were selected with a view toward providing significant insights into issues, organizations, or institutions that have remained important to science and science policy. Second, with two possible exceptions, only those memoranda were selected that recount conversations with individuals whose names and accomplishments remain familiar to a reasonably wide circle of potential readers with at least a passing knowledge of the history of science and science policy since World War II.
As an illustration of the use of the first criterion: although Golden seems to have devoted more time and energy to the problems of the Research and Development Board (RDB) than to any other single set of issues, none of his memoranda dealing wholly or primarily with that troubled organization were selected for inclusion. The RDB ceased to exist more than 40 years ago, and most of its organizational, personnel, or fiscal problems that were of such burning interest to many of Goldenís interlocutors have little currency today. By the same token, occasional passages from selected memoranda (such as Vannevar Bushís lengthy October 24, 1950, discourse on developments in anti-tank weaponry or the status of research on a promising new grenade) have been deleted on the grounds that the somewhat arcane information they recount would be of interest only to specialists.
The second selection criterion is closely related to the first. Most of the insights on perennial issues and institutions that Goldenís memoranda recount were the results of conversations with individuals who, as "insiders," made significant contributions to science and also had an undeniable, lasting influence on the course of U.S. science policy in the decade following World War II, and often longer. As a result, many of their names remain familiar today. However, Goldenís charge from the Bureau of the Budget was concerned with the short-term problem of mobilizing science for the Korean conflict and a possible wider war, rather than with formulating a broadly-based, long-term science policy. That he managed to achieve such important long-term results under those circumstances is remarkable. Nevertheless, it was the short-term charge from the Bureau that necessarily determined his course of action. Thus, he sought out people who were qualified to provide information and insights relevant to that charge either by virtue of their positions in the civilian and military departments of the government or, in the case of non-government scientists, their experience with military research. Although many of these individuals gave him substantial assistance in conducting the inquiries requested by the Bureau of the Budget, few had the insights or "big picture" perspectives of a James B. Conant or an I. I. Rabi, for example. Nor did many have the same opportunity to influence science policy decisively. Justly or not, the names of a majority of those whom Golden spoke with 45 years ago have long since been forgotten save by those with whom they had close personal associations; justifiably or not, few of those names appear as principles in this selection of memoranda.
Two memoranda have been included that do not satisfy these criteria rigorously: one recounting a conversation with Herman Spoehr on October 20, 1950; the second recounting a conversation with Leslie Groves on December 19, 1950.
The Spoehr interview was selected because, together with a December 21, 1950, memorandum on a conversation with Theodore von Karman, it indicates that there was at least some high-level recognition 45 years ago of the importance of viewing both U.S. science and U.S. science policy in an international context.
As to Groves, as head of the Manhattan Project during World War II he had, for better or worse, an undeniable although possibly unintended impact on what was to follow. Although he had retired from active military service by 1950 and retained little or no influence in government, his attitudes toward what was then occurring and toward some of the still influential scientists with whom he had worked five years earlier are intriguing, at least to one admittedly biased editor.
Some readers may take issue not only with the above noted selection criteria, but also with the results they have yielded in terms of the specific memoranda reproduced in this volume. However, one of this editorís objectives has been to whet the appetites of readers sufficiently to induce a reasonable number of them to consult the full collection of memoranda. Fortunately, Golden has made that possible by depositing complete bound sets of photocopies, referenced as GOVERNMENT MILITARY-SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH: Review for the President of the United States, 1950-51, in five locations: the Library of Congress (Washington, DC), The Center for the History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics (College Park, Maryland), the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library (Abilene, Kansas), the Herbert C. Hoover Library (West Branch, Iowa), and the Harry S. Truman Library (Independence, Missouri).
Conceivably, one or more of those who become intrigued enough to consult the full collection in one of these repositories will decide to prepare a more definitive edition than is represented by this compilation.
William A. Blanpied