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Shaping Biology

The National Science Foundation and American Biological Research, 1945-1975

Toby A. Appel

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Historians of the postwar transformation of science have focused largely on the physical sciences, especially the relation of science to the military funding agencies. In Shaping Biology, Toby A. Appel brings attention to the National Science Foundation and federal patronage of the biological sciences. Scientists by training, NSF biologists hoped in the 1950s that the new agency would become the federal government's chief patron for basic research in biology, the only agency to fund the entire range of biology—from molecules to natural history museums—for its own sake. Appel traces how this…

Historians of the postwar transformation of science have focused largely on the physical sciences, especially the relation of science to the military funding agencies. In Shaping Biology, Toby A. Appel brings attention to the National Science Foundation and federal patronage of the biological sciences. Scientists by training, NSF biologists hoped in the 1950s that the new agency would become the federal government's chief patron for basic research in biology, the only agency to fund the entire range of biology—from molecules to natural history museums—for its own sake. Appel traces how this vision emerged and developed over the next two and a half decades, from the activities of NSF's Division of Biological and Medical Sciences, founded in 1952, through the cold war expansion of the 1950s and 1960s and the constraints of the Vietnam War era, to its reorganization out of existence in 1975. This history of NSF highlights fundamental tensions in science policy that remain relevant today: the pull between basic and applied science; funding individuals versus funding departments or institutions; elitism versus distributive policies of funding; issues of red tape and accountability.

In this NSF-funded study, Appel explores how the agency developed, how it worked, and what difference it made in shaping modern biology in the United States. Based on formerly untapped archival sources as well as on interviews of participants, and building upon prior historical literature, Shaping Biology covers new ground and raises significant issues for further research on postwar biology and on federal funding of science in general.

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Shaping Biology

Toby A. Appel

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Reviews

Reviews

This is one of those rare books that historians and sociologists of science will use for a very long time as a valuable resource... Toby A. Appel's is a compelling and important story, written with a sense of humor and humanity.

Appel has done a remarkable job. No subsequent historical work on NSF and the biological sciences can begin without building on the solid foundation she provides in Shaping Biology.

Toby Appel does a thorough, scholarly job of bringing to life... the National Science Foundation.

This path-breaking book on the National Science Foundation (NSF) represents the first detailed empirical study of this agency in the making of 'policy' for the life sciences in the United States since 1945.

Based on previously unexamined archival sources, Appel's analysis is clearly presented and well documented. She provides critical policy context for NSF decisions in biology by discussing their elevance to NIH, other federal agencies, and both national and international political events.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6.125
x
9.25
Pages
408
ISBN
9780801873478
Illustration Description
1 line drawing
Table of Contents

List of Tables
Foreword
Acknowledgements
Introduction. Envisioning a Federal Patron for Biology
Chapter 1. Making a Place for Biology at the "Endless Frontier," 1945–1950
Chapter 2. Fashioning a New

List of Tables
Foreword
Acknowledgements
Introduction. Envisioning a Federal Patron for Biology
Chapter 1. Making a Place for Biology at the "Endless Frontier," 1945–1950
Chapter 2. Fashioning a New Federal Patron for Biology, 1950–1952
Chapter 3. Expanding and Experimenting in the 1950s
Chapter 4. Government Relations and Policy-Making in the Cold War Era
Chapter 5. Competing Within a Pluralist Federal Funding System, 1952–1963
Chapter 6. Funding Individuals and Institutions in the 1960s: Opportunities and Constraints
Chapter 7. Promoting Big Biology: Biotrons, Boats, and National Biological Laboratories
Chapter 8. Allocating Resources to a Divided Science: The "New" and the "Old" in Biology
Chapter 9. Forging New Directions After the Golden Age, 1968–1972
Chapter 10. End of an Era, 1972–1975
Appendixes
Notes
Note of NSF Primary Sources
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Toby A. Appel, Ph.D.

Toby A. Appel is Historical Librarian with the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library, Yale University, and research associate of the Section of History of Medicine.