Scientific Military

Purposeful Science finds Funds/Usefulness in Military Effort

Military systems are ordered under the chain of command, and service members follow orders without asking questions. Soldiers who do not agree with their commands still have to follow them, that is the way the MRE crumbles. During wartime, if a soldier refuses to follow a direct command, he may be shot in the head immediately by his commanding officer. No trial, no argument – follow the orders the superiors dictate. When faced with a moral concern, the soldier is ultimately to follow orders. Science disagrees with this approach. For one thing, scientists who are able to create weapons of mass destruction are burdened with the moral issue: is it right and just to create these weapons? Once materialized, the scientists do not possess the authority to restrict the military – or rogue nations – from using the weapons to destroy life. The aim of science to understand natural life, not destroy it.

The military has a ruthless approach. The object of the service is to protect, defend, and sustain. The military accepts that certain loses must happen to better the whole, but they accept this on a literal level. If a group of 100 people can be saved by one man dying, then military reason says the one man should feel honored to die for the glory and safety of his country. There is an enlisted job/specialty that literally is an enlisted soldier who follows the Chaplin around (everywhere he goes). That soldier’s “real” job is to jump in front of the Chaplin if he is attacked to save his life because his job is to bring support to the masses. Military morality is different because it is flexible according to the demands of the nation.

Bowler and Morus noted that many scientists are pacifists. In 1939, Einstein wrote to President Roosevelt to begin constructing the bomb because he feared that the Axis forces would be able to make a bomb.[1] The Allies would need the Atomic bomb for defense purposes. The arms race (and later space race) created great anxiety for scientists because they wanted funding for research but did not like kneeling to the ways of the military.

The scientists wanted to test their theories about the atom, and due to the high cost of the research required, science found funding with the military. Science had assisted the service during WWI, and especially the Navy with technology produced to communicate via radar, sonar, and radio.[2] Using scientific method, the scientists approached the military problems with reason and theory. Scientists were advising the military – different branches including biology and physicists.[3]

Einstein was excluded from the Manhattan Project, and much to the scientists dismay, Brigadier General Leslie Groves took command. Robert Oppenheimer was a leading physicist, and his team of civilians and scientists: “…were not simply taking orders from the military and were free to think about the consequences of what they were doing”[4] in which allowed major debates about the moral concerns regarding the bombs construction. However, the members of the Manhattan Project believed they were trying to beat Germany, and therefore, they patriotically participated. Science cooperated with the military and industry so that they had practical means to back their experimentation process. Bowler and Morus said, “In a sense, the Manhattan Project was changing the way science was done, requiring leading scientists to engage in much closer cooperation with military and industrial interests.”[5]

As science continued to shift away from theoretical and abstract purposes towards practical uses, the military eagerly demonstrated the need and embraced for weapon advancement and wartime strategic technologies. Russia took over as villain once Germany was defeated, and the hydrogen bomb, along with the cold war scare, would dominate America from the 1950s on, only losing steam at the fall of communist Russia. C.M. Mody Cyrus said, “Evidence of mobilization was everywhere, from the Manhattan Project to the space race to the civil rights movement to the “wars” on poverty, drugs, and cancer.”[6] After WWII, the Cold War gripped the nations in an icy fear that: “each superpower was acutely aware that not pursuing even the most outrageous visions could result in a victory for the other side.”[7] Scientific advance was found in “big science,” which looked to funding from the military and industry.

Bowler and Morus noted that Oppenheimer had contact with left-wing organizations and fell victim to persecution by McCarthy and the Red Scare.[8] I remember during my childhood, the 1980s, the intense animosity for Russia and all things non-democratic. In elementary school, we had nuclear drills like the kids have fire drills. The alarm was even more annoying, and the students filed out into the hall, faced the wall and sat down with crossed legs. As a kid, I remember thinking, “How is sitting in the hall going to keep us safe from a bomb?” Now, I think they did it so that everyone would be together and try to stay calm as long as possible. Realistically, if the school were hit with a nuclear bomb, everyone is done – does not matter if you sat cross or straight legged. What is scary is, at that point, all humanity can do is calmly prepare to be decimated. {le sigh}



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

Cyrus, C.M. Mody. “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences, 38.3 (2008): 451-461. Web. 20 Jan 2016.

Picture c/o:

[1] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 473.

[2] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 470.

[3] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 471.

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

[5] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 475.

[6] Cyrus, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” p. 452.

[7] Cyrus, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” p. 452.

[8] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 480.


Chemical Warfare, WWII, the Atomic Bomb, and Einstein

Einstein the Pacifist

Due to the construction of the atomic bomb, I feel that Einstein offered the greatest impact to science for the twentieth-century. Specifically because of the mass destruction that the A-bomb enforced, science was able to create unimaginable horrors to inflict upon its enemy. The military turned to science for warfare development and gained immeasurably due to advancing technologies such as automatic machine-guns, chemical gases, and biological weapons. As a local historian, I assisted in founding in the WWII History Project for Fairmont State University in 2005-2006 by interviewing civilians and veterans involved in the effort. The process consisted of a personalized account of the individual’s experience with the war, followed by the interviewer’s questions, and recorded on video for later transcription. The documents were then transferred to the National Library for permanent record. One of the civilians I interviewed was a woman from West Virginia who applied for a government job she noticed listed in the newspaper. She applied and was excited when she found out that she would be flying in a plane for the first time to her new job. She worked in a factory making parts for the government. Later, she found out that the parts she was constructing were components to the atomic bomb. Apparently, for security purposes and to prevent society from learning of the atrocious abilities of nuclear warfare, there were only a handful of individuals who knew what was being built – and chances were that if they knew, they still would not know where the parts were located.

Bowler and Morus discussed the importance of chemical war as the military turned to science for better explosives and poisonous gases from 1914-1918.[1]Science and the military did not always agree, but the military saw scientific ability as useful for purposes of war. Even if the military asking for service did not want to use harmful substances, they did not want the enemy to be able to construct a substance that they did not understand or know how to create in terms of defense. Bowler and Morus said, “The British and the French responded much more rapidly than the Germans expected, and the rest of the war saw a succession of developments including the use of gas shells and the introduction of new chemicals such as mustard gas.”[2]

The fear of the enemy advancing to surpass their level of scientific success terrorized the Allied forces during WWII. If the Allies knew about the ability to create an atomic bomb, then the possibility that the information could be discovered by the Axis force, and used against whole cities was a real threat. In efforts to surpass Hitler, the Manhattan Project formed to develop the bomb: “When Heisenberg and his colleagues were interrogated after their capture by the Allies, it became clear that they had vastly overestimated the critical mass needed to start a chain reaction in uranium and had told the German military that the bomb could not be made.”[3] German science, fortunately, had not been able to advance as the Allies feared. The military seized control of scientific research and procedure, and “Oppenheimer realized that scientists would have to learn to work in these new ways if they were to have any influence over what was being done with their work.”[4]

While his theories may have depended on concepts formulated by Michelson and Morey, Einstein successfully married the refutation of ether with his theories of relativity.[5] Ofer Ashkenazi noted Einstein’s attachment to the peace movement even though his discoveries were used to construct the Atomic bomb.[6] Einstein interacted with political officials in efforts to work towards peace in avoidance of conflict, death, or suffrage. Ashkenazi said, “The shift of emphasis from the national to the transnational aspects of the anti-war struggle thus places Einstein’s views and activity well within the framework of the mainstream peace movement.”[7] Why then, would Einstein ever agree to formulate the bomb? Ashkenazi noted Einstein accepted the notion of defense but was a pacifist.[8] He agreed to assist the military as means of preserving peace; after Hitler stormed Europe, Einstein could no longer claim to be a pacifist.[9] Doug Long said, “Einstein’s greatest role in the invention of the atomic bomb was signing a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt urging that the bomb be built.”[10] Vannavar Bush did not trust Einstein to keep the project secret, and the scientist was excluded from production. In the end, Einstein regretted advising for the bomb to be built, but he was so afraid that Germany would build one first – Einstein made sure the Allies had the bomb first.



Ashkenazi, Ofer. “Reframing the Interwar Peace Movement: The Curious Case of Albert Einstein.” Journal of Contemporary History, 46.4 (2011): 741-766. JSTOR. Web. 19 Jan 2016.

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

Long, Doug. “Albert Einstein and the Atomic Bomb.” Unk. date. Webpage. 19 Jan 2016.

Picture c/o:

[1] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 465.

[2] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p.467.

[3] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 472.

[4] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 475.

[5] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 264.

[6] Ashkenazi, “Reframing the Interwar Peace Movement: The Curious Case of Albert Einstein,” Journal of Contemporary History, p. 742.

[7] Ashkenazi, “Reframing the Interwar Peace Movement: The Curious Case of Albert Einstein,” Journal of Contemporary History, p. 743.

[8] Ashkenazi, “Reframing the Interwar Peace Movement: The Curious Case of Albert Einstein,” Journal of Contemporary History, p. 741-2.

[9] Long, “Albert Einstein and the Atomic Bomb.”

[10] Long, “Albert Einstein and the Atomic Bomb.”