Post WWII Astronomy and Rebuilding U.S. Astronomical Institutions--The U.S. Perspective

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Session 1 -- Astronomy and the State
Oral presentation, Tuesday, January 11, 9:00-5:00, Salons A & B Room (Crystal City Marriott)

[1.02] Post WWII Astronomy and Rebuilding U.S. Astronomical Institutions--The U.S. Perspective

W. E. Howard (U.S. Army)

A belief that technology contributed substantially to the winning of World War II spurred the formation of ONR, then NSF which was formed in ONR's image. NASA's space support, cold war competition, and ARPA's funding of high risk, high payoff technologies led to state-of-the-art instrumentation in astronomy. Limits on funding for instrumentation at individual institutions led to the concept and growth of national astronomy observatories that made observing time available to the best ideas from astronomers who had no access to big telescopes at home. Success of these major observatories lay also in their treatment of visitors who were made to feel a part of the institution. As federal funding became available, several issues were heavily debated, among which were overhead costs on grant awards, what the breakdown of responsibility should be for institutional vs. federal funding, spreading vs. concentrating the available funding, the role of the AAS and advisory groups, federal vs. researcher specification of the research program, and the roots of the modern debate concerning research relevance. U.S. astronomers are unique because of our eclecticism, our development of a winning system of workplaces, our peer review system, our united front presented by our projective planning and our periodic decade reviews, our international orientation, all in the context of national support that is preeminent in the world. These features operate within an economic system that enables us to communicate and travel easily, and scientific and academic administrations that permit astronomers to concentrate on their research without excess internal or external politics.

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