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Government Science in Cold War America Edward Condon and the transformation of NBS, 1945-1951

Edward Condon

Presented in partnership with the Standards Alumni Association

In November 1945, Edward Condon became the first director of the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) to be selected from outside the agency's ranks. Science historian and Smithsonian curator Tom Lassman will share the results from his research of Condon's time at NBS. A respected theoretical physicist who had previously worked at Princeton University and the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company, Condon attempted to transform the Bureau into a nationally recognized R&D center specifically tuned to the technical requirements of the small business community. Military priorities driven by the onset of the Cold War, however, thwarted this ambitious civilian agenda andthe Department of Defense quickly became the largest source of funding for the Bureau's R&D programs. Dr. Lassmanwill explain how Condon's tenure at NBS marked one of the last attempts to extend the regulatory power of the state into the national economy on a scale not seen since the New Deal programs of the 1930's.

Thomas Lassman
Curator
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Created December 29, 2015, Updated January 5, 2017