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The Cold War and the Federation of American Scientists


Social differences between England and the US
Freeman Dyson Scientist
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[Q] You really get an introduction to the new social world of the United States at Cornell and it's radically different from what you had experienced previously.

Yes, it was much more egalitarian than England; although England was supposed to be socialist, America was supposed to be capitalist, but it was really the other way round. England was still very snobbish compared with Cornell, and Cornell I had the feeling - of course, it was a very different America from today, just as a result of the war, America was in a very egalitarian... period, it was rather unique in American life. So all these people who were in graduate school were getting paid for by the American government with the GI Bill, and there were enormous benefits for everybody. There was a lot of cheap housing going up and generally speaking social welfare was very good at that time, and there was a general feeling of solidarity - people were friendly and not afraid of each other.

Freeman Dyson (1923-2020), who was born in England, moved to Cornell University after graduating from Cambridge University with a BA in Mathematics. He subsequently became a professor and worked on nuclear reactors, solid state physics, ferromagnetism, astrophysics and biology. He published several books and, among other honours, was awarded the Heineman Prize and the Royal Society's Hughes Medal.

Listeners: Sam Schweber

Silvan Sam Schweber is the Koret Professor of the History of Ideas and Professor of Physics at Brandeis University, and a Faculty Associate in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University. He is the author of a history of the development of quantum electro mechanics, "QED and the men who made it", and has recently completed a biography of Hans Bethe and the history of nuclear weapons development, "In the Shadow of the Bomb: Oppenheimer, Bethe, and the Moral Responsibility of the Scientist" (Princeton University Press, 2000).

Tags: UK, USA, Cornell University, GI Bill

Duration: 1 minute, 12 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1998

Date story went live: 24 January 2008