cover image Freedom’s Laboratory: The Cold War Struggles for the Soul of Science

Freedom’s Laboratory: The Cold War Struggles for the Soul of Science

Audra J. Wolfe. Johns Hopkins Univ., $29.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4214-2673-0

Historian Wolfe (Competing with the Soviets) offers a thoughtful, thoroughly researched history of how the American government employed science and scientists to improve world opinion of liberal democracy during the Cold War. She writes informatively about the political events and issues that influenced American policymakers, among them the 1957 Soviet launch of Sputnik and the debate over atomic weapons proliferation. Wolfe also focuses on how, as the Cold War progressed, the CIA, in service to using the American scientific community as a weapon of propaganda, became increasingly involved in influencing or controlling the exchange of scientific information between scientists in the U.S. and its allies, by 1967 supporting 38 supposedly private scientific organizations to the amount of $15 million annually. Wolfe concludes that the U.S. efforts, specifically those centered around championing the human rights of scientists in the Soviet Union, were successful, “unlike most of the United States’ other attempts to destroy Communism through culture.” In a short epilogue, explicitly referring to “Trumpism,” Wolfe observes that science is political and warns that the choices scientists make today will have consequences for generations to come. Although Wolfe’s topic is narrow, readers with an interest in the conjunction of science and politics will find her book an informative one. (Nov.)