Physics and Government

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Description

In defining the powers and duties of the three branches of government, the U.S. Constitution never explicitly referred to Science, except in the patent clause. But many technical responsibilities are implied in references to weights and measures, the census, and the like. Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and in particular Benjamin Franklin, were highly literate in science, but it was their disciple, President John Quincy Adams who promoted as a matter of policy a direct role of the government in science--in particular with respect to astronomy, land surveys and navigation--all physical sciences. Some agencies of government--notably the National Bureau of Standards ... continued below

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11 pages

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Hendry, Nancy H. August 24, 1999.

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This report is part of the collection entitled: Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports and was provided by UNT Libraries Government Documents Department to Digital Library, a digital repository hosted by the UNT Libraries. More information about this report can be viewed below.

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Description

In defining the powers and duties of the three branches of government, the U.S. Constitution never explicitly referred to Science, except in the patent clause. But many technical responsibilities are implied in references to weights and measures, the census, and the like. Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and in particular Benjamin Franklin, were highly literate in science, but it was their disciple, President John Quincy Adams who promoted as a matter of policy a direct role of the government in science--in particular with respect to astronomy, land surveys and navigation--all physical sciences. Some agencies of government--notably the National Bureau of Standards and the Department of Agriculture were founded in the early days of the Republic with scientific and technical missions. Since then the involvement of the government with science has waxed and waned but the major expansion of the interaction between physics and government occurred after World War II when physicists demonstrated the power of their craft during mobilization of science in support of the war effort. In discussing the interaction of physics with government we should distinguish ''science in government''--scientific input into policy making--from ''government in science,'' which is the support and management of that part of the overall scientific endeavor for which the government has responsibility. Let me turn first to the subject of physics in government. An overwhelming fraction of governmental decisions today have scientific and technical components; decisions ignoring these components are wasteful at best and can imperil the nation. For this reason governmental bodies at all levels solicit scientific advice--or at least give lip service to the need for such advice. When such advice was deliberately avoided, as President Reagan did before announcing his Strategic Defense Initiative in March 1983, the technically unattainable goal ''to make nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete'' was proclaimed.

Physical Description

11 pages

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  • Other Information: PBD: 24 Aug 1999

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  • Report No.: SLAC-PUB-8237
  • Grant Number: AC03-76SF00515
  • DOI: 10.2172/10525 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 10525
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc623992

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Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports

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  • August 24, 1999

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • June 16, 2015, 7:43 a.m.

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  • Feb. 2, 2016, 5:43 p.m.

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Hendry, Nancy H. Physics and Government, report, August 24, 1999; Menlo Park, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc623992/: accessed September 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.