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Science in Government and Government in Science—The 1960s

January 01, 2001


By the decade of the 1960s, the public was certain that science and technology could provide the answers to most of the world’s problems. To be sure, between 1900 and 1964, the average life expectancy had risen from 49 years to 70 years. In addition, a broad spectrum of new wonders were available—transistor radios, television, jet aircraft, artificial fibers, plastics, unusually high crop yields, and cheap electricity produced from nuclear power and low-priced oil from overseas. Consequently, scientific leaders were proud of their accomplishments and the presence of strong public support. As Dr. Donald Hornig, Science Advisor to President Nixon, observed (Hornig, 1965):

Our federal expenditures (for research and development) have increased some two hundred times since the beginning of World War II. Put differently, the size of the effort has doubled every seven years, measured in dollars, or every twelve years, measured in numbers of people engaged.2

For scientists and engineers, the 1960s were truly a golden age. If you conceived something new, its development was likely to be funded.

In sharp contrast to Dr. Hornig’s optimistic report cited above, the economic and technical problems facing the petroleum industry in the late 1950s continued right into the 1960s. In fact, the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) lost membership (under three percent) between 1960 and 1963. Within the United States, the number of seismic land crews fell from about 380 in 1960 to a low of 190 in 1970. Oil from Venezuela, North Africa, and the Middle East was

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Figures & Tables


Society of Exploration Geophysicists Geophysical References Series

Geophysics in the Affairs of Mankind: A Personalized History of Exploration Geophysics

L. C. (Lee) Lawyer
L. C. (Lee) Lawyer
Past President of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists
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Charles C. Bates
Charles C. Bates
Honorary Member, Society of Exploration Geophysicists
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Robert B. Rice
Robert B. Rice
Past President and Honorary Member of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists
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Society of Exploration Geophysicists
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January 01, 2001




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