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Labor Action, 6 March 1950


Carl Darton

You and Science

The Federation of American Scientists


From Labor Action, Vol. 14 No. 10, 6 March 1950, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The most important and promising of the post-war organizations of politically and socially conscious scientists is the Federation of American Scientists, with national offices at 1749 L Street, Washington. The present chairman is Hugh C. Wolfe of Cooper Union.

The federation was formed on January 6, 1946 by 30 delegates, representing 14 organizations of scientists which had sprung up independently and spontaneously at the various wartime research centers on atomic energy, radar, rocket and biological warfare. These scientists felt deeply the need for a well-informed public opinion to serve as a basis for a national policy on atomic energy. They became actively involved in political action when late in 1945 they dispatched relays of enthusiastic emissaries to Washington to oppose passage of the War Department-sponsored May-Johnson atomic energy control bill.

Soon after its formation the FAS set up a Committee on Foreign Correspondence with the purpose of strengthening bonds of friendship across national barriers and in order to “encourage development of a concerted attack on the difficulties which stand in the way of peaceful international control of atomic energy.”

In the following years the FAS has continued to be interested and active in the problems of atomic-energy control but has also become involved in the issue of civil rights for scientists. Its testimony was helpful in the Condon case, the Atomic Energy Commission investigation and students’ loyalty oaths.

The FAS said recently:

“We have worked constantly to safeguard the freedom of American science. In these times of suspicion and fear, we have found it necessary to study dispassionately and to report on the many individual wrongs and the often undemocratic procedures which are damaging to genuine American democracy in the name of narrow military secrecy.”

The federation has also campaigned actively for a national science foundation as a means of eliminating the dependence of scientific research on the military. This foundation is seen as an agency of the federal government to be charged with the task of reviewing, evaluating and financing the national science effort and to make recommendations for coordinating public and private research.

Involved in Immediate Problems

The FAS issues a periodic newsletter as well as informational bulletin and press releases. A rather effective lobbying service is maintained on issues of interest to scientists. Although there has been no departure from its original perspective of “promoting the welfare of mankind and the achievement of a stable peace,” there has Been increasing involvement in the more immediate problems facing the scientific profession.

Today the FAS claims only 1,500 dues-paying members, marking a rather sharp decline in the past several years. Recently constitutional changes made the basic unit in the federation the individual member rather than the chapter. This corresponds with the reality that many of the original local units have been disbanded or have become inactive as war-research units have undergone radical changes in personnel, location and organization. It is to be hoped that the FAS will solve its organizational difficulties, will continue its activities and gain in membership and influence.

One of the serious weaknesses of the Federation of American Scientists has been the lack of a publication of its own in order to shape public opinion. However, it has made efforts to use various other publications, such as the Scientific American, Science and particularly the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, to publicize its aims.

Members of the FAS usually subscribe and contribute to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which is published by the Chicago Educational Foundation for Nuclear Science. It has maintained a high technical standard and interest level. Recently an issue was devoted to the Lysenko genetics controversy in Russia and a later issue directed just as sharp an attack against the curbing of scientific freedom here in the United States under the loyalty purge program.

The activities of the FAS, as well as of other progressive movements and events of political and social significance on the scientific scene, will be followed in future issues of this column.

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Last updated on 9 March 2023