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The Jasons: The Secret History of Science's Postwar Elite (edition 2006)

by Ann Finkbeiner

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Member:drwho
Title:The Jasons: The Secret History of Science's Postwar Elite
Authors:Ann Finkbeiner
Info:Viking Adult (2006), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:think tank, history, cold war, disasters, x threats, hard problems, science, politics, difficult solutions, military, consultation, ethics, conflicts, interviews

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The Jasons: The Secret History of Science's Postwar Elite by Ann Finkbeiner

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I was impress with the use of the word ' anent ' too ( ! ) ( )
  BakuDreamer | Sep 7, 2013 |
The Jasons are a topic that gets briefly mentioned in lots of modern scientific biographies. This, as far as I know, is the first comprehensive history of that advisory group. It's reasonably interesting if you're into this kind of thing, but I suspect most people just wouldn't care. ( )
  wanack | Jun 28, 2008 |
A biography of the Jasons, a loose group of top US scientists who independently work on both classified and non-classified projects of their own choosing, mostly for the Defense Department. I knew the names of many of the physicists named in the book (and who I didn't know were Jasons), and was surprised to discover that a former academic adviser of mine is now a member. It was an interesting glimpse into this secretive group of scientists and their role in US science policy throughout the cold war and beyond, mostly through interviews with members, supplemented with material from unpublished internal histories from both the DoD and the Jasons themselves. ( )
  craigim | Dec 28, 2007 |
The Sun,
April 18, 2006 Edition > Section: Arts and Letters Science for Better Government
Books

BY PETER PETTUS
URL: http://www.nysun.com/article/31164

extract:

The example of the Manhattan Project taught that a disparate group of strong-willed scientists, working together voluntarily, could achieve marvels. This was the model followed by the group of scientific advisers we now know as the Jasons. Originally formed by veterans of the Manhattan Project, the group included such gigantic personalities as Freeman Dyson, Edward Teller, Eugene Wigner, and Hans Bethe, and demonstrated how creative cooperation between scientists and the government could produce astonishing results.

In "The Jasons: The Secret History of Science's Postwar Elite" (Viking, 304 pages, $27.95),Ann Finkbeiner tells the remarkable story of how this small cadre of brilliant American scientists provided vital technological support to our government over a period of 46 years following the end of World War II. Her fascinating, often moving account of the history of the Jasons (named after the Golden Fleece hero) includes interviews with many current and former members, some of whom preferred to remain anonymous.

Although the existence of the group was never acknowledged openly, it was not the most closely guarded secret, either. Originally created by people close to the physicist John Archibald Wheeler in 1960, the idea behind the Jasons was to provide the Defense Department (actually, the Advanced Research Projects Agency) with practical answers to the many threats posed by the suddenly intensified Cold War. The arrival of Sputnik, which could just as well have been carrying a nuclear warhead, created a critical sense of urgency in the military. They needed creative solutions fast. Jason was created to provide them, just as the Manhattan Project had done during the World War II.

What distinguished this group from all the other science advisers that serve the government is the unique way it was organized. The association is voluntary and collegial, and, most important, it is independent. Members are invited to join not by the government, but by other Jasons. And Jason management worked with the government sponsors to decide what questions they would study, and Jasons themselves would work only on those studies that interested them.

Because all the elite members of the group have distinguished careers elsewhere in universities around the country, they meet during the summer months in La Jolla, Calif., and deal with questions put to them by ARPA and other government agencies. What always made the group feasible is the scientists' sheer excitement about the prospect of working with a bunch of really smart people on projects that were not simply theoretical but existed in the real world. This was applied technology that these theoretical physicists were working on, and, as Ms. Finkbeiner shows, most of the Jasons believed that their scientific role could exist in both realms, the theoretical and the practical. This remained true for the Jasons even when it led inevitably to difficult moral issues about the possible consequences of their work, much as it had for the Manhattan group earlier.

Motivated by a sense of responsibility for how the country uses the products of science to defend itself, most Jasons accepted this conflict. As Freeman Dyson expressed it, "We are scientists second and human beings first." "We became politically involved," he wrote, "because knowledge implies responsibility." The atomic genie was out of the bottle forever, and many of America's leading scientists, especially the Jasons, chose engagement, rather than withdrawal to the academy. In addition, Ms. Finkbeiner came to believe that these people were deeply, if indemonstrably, patriotic.
  Owain | Apr 21, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670034894, Hardcover)

They call themselves Jason. Their group is a child of the Manhattan Project by way of the cold war, and they have counted among their ranks scientific stars like Freeman Dyson and Murray Gell-Mann, and among their mentors Edward Teller and Hans Bethe. They’ve inherited a mission from the Manhattan Project-to counsel the government on the military uses of pure science-and have gathered every summer since 1960 to solve highly classified problems for the Department of Defense and the intelligence community. Aside from a brief media firestorm during the Vietnam War, they’ve worked in utter secrecy with unparalleled freedom.

Fiercely patriotic and stubbornly independent, the Jasons have been directly responsible for breakthroughs ranging from the electronic battlefield to "Star Wars" missile defense technology to the national system for predicting global climate. But their mission to keep a vigil over applied science has led them into both moral dilemmas and political stews. In this spellbinding and meticulously researched history, science writer Ann Finkbeiner reveals the critical scientific advances-and the unintended consequences-of the Jasons’ shadowy work as well as the fascinating personalities of the Jasons themselves.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:41:30 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Profiles a group of elite scientists who inherited from the Manhattan Project a mission to counsel the government on potential military applications of scientific breakthroughs, in an account that cites their contributions and dilemmas.

(summary from another edition)

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