Discuss: aristocratic versus state support (of science)

by reestheskin on 13/03/2017

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As if by a miracle, once up and running, the Mark 1 telescope was the only instrument that could both detect the first Soviet and American satellites and transmit instructions to them. Amazing as it now seems, the need for such a telescope had escaped both the telecommunications industry and the military leaders of both superpowers.

Despite its spectacular success, which included tracking the Sputnik 1 satellite mission in 1957, the government did nothing to alter the remaining debt, being bound by the iron restraint of Treasury rules. It was Lord Nuffield who did so, thereby demonstrating the superiority of aristocratic, rather than state support, to science – and indeed to all intellectual activity, a view which Lovell expressed frequently and forcefully to the end of his life.

Sir Fred Hoyle’ obituary of Sir Bernard Lovell. I fear Hoyle is right — at least if we realise we need more Fred Hoyles. Now, they are not aristocrats, but US philanthropists.