In the 1930s and 1940s a research school developed among scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California. Although that was due in large part to Harald U. Sverdrup, a prominent Norwegian oceanographer who served as Scripps director from 1936 to 1948, this paper emphasizes the adaptive, evolving character of that research school. Conditions at Scripps prior to Sverdrup's arrival influenced his efforts in successfully organizing a group of scientists. Once at Scripps Sverdrup proved to be an (...) able leader, but he also had to adapt to the local scientific culture. Trained in a tradition that emphasized the study of physics, chemistry and meteorology, Sverdrup's emphasis on dynamical oceanography had a powerful impact on his new colleagues. But in the process his understanding of oceanography also evolved. He became more fully aware of the importance of biological and geological investigations, and it was only through close interaction with and reliance on a diverse group of scientists that there emerged an ecological understanding of the oceans that became a hallmark of Scripps oceanography. Emphasizing the importance of adaptation and interaction, and the work of other scientists in addition to a group leader, this paper offers new insights into the formation of research schools. (shrink)
Vertebrate paleontology was not readily incorporated into interdisciplinary activities at the University of Chicago. During the university’s first forty years serious disputes arose over the subject’s parameters and departmental affiliation. Only after World War II did a cooperative, interdisciplinary program emerge. Changes in biology and geology influenced that development, but even more important were local research and educational initiatives that provided the impetus and resources to create an innovative program.
This paper explores Roger Revelle's activities in oceanography and institution-building during and after the Second World War. In particular, it explores his shift from a wartime acceptance of science serving mission-oriented objectives, to a defence ofthe distinction between basic and applied science. For Revelle, the Federal government, and especially the military, became theguarantor of basic research in oceanography. This understanding led him to privilege military sponsorship over contract research,and the physical over the biological sciences. He drew upon that understanding to (...) construct a unique institutional geography for science in southern California. (shrink)
In the summer of 1941, Harald Sverdrup, the Norwegian-born Director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) in La Jolla, California, was denied security clearance to work on Navy-sponsored research in underwater acoustics applied to anti-submarine warfare. The clearance denial embarrassed the world renown oceanographer and Arctic explorer, who repeatedly offered his services to the U.S. government only to see scientists of far lesser reputation called upon to aid the war effort. The official story of Sverdrup's denial was the risk (...) of blackmail over relatives in occupied Norway. Declassified documents tell a different story. Although Sverdrup's integrity was defended on the highest levels of U.S. science, doubt was cast upon him by members of his own institution, who accused him of being a Nazi sympathiser. Personal distrust, rooted in scientific and intellectual disagreement, spilled over into questions about Sverdrup's loyalty and judgement. These doubts were considered sufficient grounds for withholding clearance, until Roger Revelle, a former student of Sverdrup now working within the Navy, was able to obtain a limited clearance for Sverdrup to develop techniques to forecast surf conditions during amphibious assaults. After the war, this work was credited with saving many lives, but at the time it placed Sverdrup out of the mainstream of Navy-sponsored oceanographic research. In being denied access to major areas of scientific work, Sverdrup's position as a leader of American oceanography was undermined.The loyalty case of Harald Sverdrup illustrates the emergence of an institutional apparatus through which the U.S. military began to control and shape the organisation of American science in the twentieth century. Military sponsorship of scientific research, begun during the open conflicts of World War II and continuing into the simmering tensions of the Cold War, involved explicit control by the U.S. military of who had access to critical information. This in turn meant who could do science in conjunction with the military. As the U.S. Navy became the principal sponsor of oceanography in the post-war years, clearance to do military work became to a great extent clearance to do oceanography. Choices about who could be trusted were also choices about who would do science, and what kind of science they would do. (shrink)