Science and War


    PROTECTION of civilian population from attack by deadly weapons that science has created is set forth as one of the paramount duties of science in the present emergency, in the annual report by Dr. Vannevar Bush, president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, recently issued. The same science which saves life and renders it rich and full, also destroys it and renders it horrible. Is it then possible to remain in a detached atmosphere to cultivate the slowly growing body of pure scientific knowledge, and to labour apart from the intense struggle in which the direct application of science now implies so much for good or ill? As science has produced a weapon, so also can it produce in time a defence against it. Science is dedicated to the advance of knowledge for the benefit of man. Here is a sphere where the benefit might perhaps indeed be immediate, real and satisfying. Can a scientific worker, skilled in a field such that his efforts might readily be directed to the attainment of applications which would afford protection to his fellow-men against such an overwhelming peril, now justify expending his effort for any other and more remote cause?

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    Science and War. Nature 145, 143 (1940).

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