Technology is Not Cheap: Funding Big Science

Who Pays the Technology Bill?

Good points about the atomic bomb and Einstein’s contribution to science. {Peer} wrote: “Most scientists, especially physicist, had to look to the government and the big pocket book that it had in order to conduct the types of research and experiments necessary for the research.”

I agree; to gain funding for “big science” the scientists had to surrender their authority to the military and industry. However, if they had not been so intimidated by the threat of the enemy developing a bomb first, morality might have won out. Many scientists were pacifists, but they wanted to know if their theories worked. The military itself was not the most demanding voice though it was intimidating; the fear of enemy intelligence “encouraged most scientists to throw themselves into the work.”[1] I think science wanted to have a practical purpose to justify the costs of their research, and industry and the military had ample use for scientific weapons. On the other side, the military needed science. As organized and strategic as the service is, a scientist a soldier does not make. Until the military began to train their own scientists, they turned to civilians out of necessity. Do you think there were any other options, or do you feel science was justified to progress? It would be nice if instead of creating a bomb a way to cancel out the effects of radiation, would have been constructed. But that seems a bit sci-fi instead of science.

Bowler and Morus mentioned the space race some, but it paled in comparison to the bomb. The cost of space equipment is astronomical, and science would have to rely on the government. I cannot see how else it would be possible considering the cost. But, the cost of not knowing what is out there is also a difficult one to pay.



Bowler, Peter J. and Iwan Rhys Morus. Making Modern Science: A Historical Survey. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2005.

Picture c/o:

[1] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 474.


4 thoughts on “Technology is Not Cheap: Funding Big Science

  1. There is another alternative to military/government funded big science. Don’t underestimate big science funded for profit by corporations.

    For example the internet was originally built by the military in the 60’s as a way to communicate. However, in the 80’s browsers and search engines were built by students and then commercialized. There are still many less than desirable side effects of big business funding and/or directing our research. But it does provide a third outlet for scientists with big dreams and goals.


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