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Todd Suomela

Amateur Science and the Rise of Big Science | Citizen Scientists League - 0 views

  • Several trends came together to increase the professional nature of scientific work. First was the increasing cost of scientific work and its complexity. Scientific equipment became more precise and expensive. Telescopes, like those by Herschel, became bigger and bigger. Also, the amount of knowledge one needed to gain to contribute became increasingly daunting.
  • Second, the universities changed. Pioneered by the German states, which at the beginning of the 19th century was dismissed as a scientific backwater, universities began offering focused majors which trained students in a specific discipline rather than classical education as a whole. This was pioneered by Wilhelm von Humboldt, brother of the famous scientist Alexander von Humboldt, who was the Prussian Minister of Education.
  • Germany, once united, also provided impetus to two other trends that accelerated their dominance of science and the decline of amateurs. First, was the beginning of large-scale state sponsorship of science through grants which were first facilitated through the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute (now the Max Planck Institute). This eventually supplanted prizes as the dominant large-scale source of scientific funding. Countries like France that relied on prizes began to fall behind. Second, was the intimate cooperation between industrial firms like BASF and universities.
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  • he final nail in the coffin was undoubtedly the Second World War. The massive mobilization of scientific resources needed to win and the discovery of war-winning inventions such as the atomic bomb and self-correcting bomb sight (with help from Norbert Wiener of MIT) convinced the nations of the world that the future was in large-scale funding and support of science as a continuous effort. Vannevar Bush, former president of MIT, and others pioneered the National Science Foundation and the military also invested heavily in its own research centers. Industrial labs such as those from Bell Labs, GE, Kodak, and others began dominating research as well. Interestingly, the first military investment in semiconductors coupled with research from Bell Labs led to what is now known as Silicon Valley.
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