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Scientific Freedom and Post-war Politics: Australia, 1945-55.

Deery, Phillip (2000) Scientific Freedom and Post-war Politics: Australia, 1945-55. Historical Records of Australian Science, 13 (1). 1-18. ISSN 0727-3061

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The Cold War was a tough time for some scientists. Most stayed in the no-man's-land of political neutrality. Others bunkered down with the Left. A few went further and joined, openly, the Communist Party. This provided cold war warriors with abundant and usually lethal ammunition. This article examines the position of two Australian scientists whose professional lives were blighted or thwarted due to that explosive mixture of Cold War politics and Communist Party membership. The international literature on left-wing scientists during the Cold War is bountiful but the Australian literature is sparse and inadequate. There is no equivalent, for example, of Werskey's pioneering work on British communist scientists (Hyman Levy, J.D. Bernal and J.B.S. Haldane)1, or Whitaker and Marcuse's exhaustive study of Canadian scientists under surveillance. What we have, instead, are brief discussions of the political impact of Cold War pressures on Australian science in biographies, organisational studies and other works with unrelated themes. Indeed the most systematic analyses can be found in unpublished studies by Rasmussen and Moran. Thus, the main objective of this article is to redress this oversight and, hopefully, illuminate some ways in which the politics of the Cold War impinged upon the lives of left-wing Australian scientists. In order to give sharper focus, the tale of only two scientists, Dr R.E.B. Makinson and Dr T.R. Kaiser, both of whom were members of the Communist Party, will be unravelled. There were, of course, a great many other Australian scientists, of whom the most notable was Marcus Oliphant, who believed their careers were diverted or derailed as a result of the Cold War atmosphere.8 Most were communist or left-leaning; some, as in Oliphant's case, merely liberal. Usually, evidence of discrimination remains circumstantial, conjectural or anecdotal. Victimisers rarely wish to leave footprints. But what is different in the case of Makinson and Kaiser is the existence of archival documents that provide explicit evidence of the political intrusion of the Cold War.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: scientific freedom; Cold War; post-war politics; Australia; 1945-1955
Subjects: Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Social Sciences and Psychology
Historical > RFCD Classification > 430000 History and Archaeology
Depositing User: Mr Angeera Sidaya
Date Deposited: 23 Feb 2007
Last Modified: 23 May 2013 16:39
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Citations in Scopus: 6 - View on Scopus

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