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Lecture

NATS 1760 Lecture Notes - Edward Teller, Operation Paperclip, Klaus Fuchs


Department
Natural Science
Course Code
NATS 1760
Professor
Vera Pavri

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January 31, 2012
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND THE WORLD WARS
I. GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS
Three major areas:
1. Attitudes and responses toward new scientific and technological developments, as well as
old ones
2. Where science and technology keys to victory
3. Ethical and moral questions raised
We live in a world today where most individual think of science and technology as being regarded
with a great deal of enthusiasm. Most countries during times of war raced to create the latest
technologies and having better technology is often seen as a major way of gaining some kind of
advantage over your opponent.
However, in WWI, things are a little different attitudes and responses towards science and tech
were not always positive there were mixed attitudes toward scientific and technological
developments during this time. Some scientific and technological developments were viewed very
positively, and some were viewed quite negatively, regardless of the contribution they gave to war
efforts
WWI (1914-1918) 10 M lives lost, a period of time known by many as being the “great” war, and
when it was completed, “the war to end all wars”
Historians suggest that the number of lives in WWI were sometimes lost unnecessarily because
soldiers often lost their lives were put in situations for the most part that met with death
“WWI has often been called a 20th century war that was fought with 19th century tactics”
o Despite having access to these technologies, tactics remained old fashioned and traditional
they remained 19th century tactics. In WWI, we see the fact that strategies did not always
mesh well with the technology available and when the strategies don’t necessarily fit with
the technology available, the end result can be a disaster
E.g., British and French leaders frowned upon the machine gun they saw the machine gun to be
an unfair, unsporting and unethical device. It seemed to go against the very basis and foundation
of what was considered to be a romanticized idea of how wars should be fought, and it seemed to
go against the traditional way that wars should be fought
o It’s so different from traditional methods of warfare because traditional warfare is often
associated with hand-to-hand combat, looking into the eyes of your opponent where you’re
fighting with bravery and honor. For many people, using a machine gun simply did not
mesh well with this idea of how wars should be fought. You could use a machine gun
indiscriminately, and plow down as many opponents as possible, but you don’t necessarily
need to see the opponent face-to-face. Therefore, despite the availability, there was a
rejection of it, especially in the early years of war
o Not only did they reject the technology, but these leaders were also unfamiliar with how to
strategize with it, and as a result, in the earliest battles, we see unfair fighting resulting in
blood baths.
German Kaiser was an individual who continued to favor traditional methods of fighting (i.e., the
idea of soldiers on horses, despite the readily availability of machine guns)
In WWI many of the military leaders in the British army often came from the aristocracy. These
were not necessarily those experience in battle, but their higher class meant that their views on
fighting were quite traditional and romantic

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II. NAVAL POWER
Naval technologies the attitudes toward science and technology were very positive
Building a stronger and more powerful navy was considered to be instrumental for many
countries, not just during WWI, but well before (i.e., England traditionally throughout her history,
tried to maintain a powerful navy, essentially because it was a country surrounded by water)
1905-1906 the British had created what was considered to be the most powerful battleship
called the Dreadnought. This was the biggest kind of battleship that was every created its size
and scale were incredible, weighing over 21,000 tons, and having a radius of over 8 miles.
When it was first constructed, it was believed that over time this kind of vessel would make other
battleships obsolete, this did not happen. But what it did do was instill a sense of fear amongst
other countries that the British were ahead of them in building a strong navy. As a result, during
the period of time leading up to WWI, many countries around the world started investing in naval
technology, and this was aided by several developments.
During this period of time it wasn’t just Europeans, but also the smallest and poorest of countries
desired to do so to get, as historians have called, a “place in the sun”.
Countries during this period of time equated having a strong and powerful name with having
presence on the world stage. This meant that it was better to invest in these kinds of naval
technologies than at times to feed the citizens of your country
The drive to build strong naval technologies was aided by the fact that many countries around the
world during this time had lobbyist organizations.
o E.g., Navy leagues were organizations that lobbied the government to fund navy
technologies. They did so because it was a great benefit to them. Those who comprised of
these organizations were often oil manufacturers, petroleum makers, ship builders etc.
those who would benefit greatly if the government were to invest in naval technology.
These organizations often did so with the use of fear (i.e., propaganda) in attempting to
gain government support. This propaganda came in the form of “if you don’t build a
stronger naval force, than it is going to place you at a disadvantage to your enemy”
Historians call this time the world’s first arms race
When WWI begins, many countries, especially those like Germany had well caught up to the
British in building a strong naval force, therefore, when WWI starts, no country had a true
advantage over the other in this area
The development of different kinds of technologies in WWI often gave countries an advantage in
battle, but did not necessarily guarantee ultimate victory in the war itself
During WWI, we can’t really point through the development of any 1 technology as being the key
factor in why the war itself ended. However, we can look at certain technologies at giving one
country an advantage over another for a period of time. Before, that advantage was negated with
the development of a counter technology. E.g., naval technologies:
o The Germans during the early years of WWI had a huge advantage over their enemies
because of the development of U-boats (submarine technologies). This provided them with
the advantage on the sea, and proved to be a great problem for British and merchant ships
attempting to cross the ocean.
o As a result, the British develop a counter technology to solve this problem they created
hydrophones, which allowed them to better detect submarines in the sea. They also
developed different strategies to mitigate the effects of a U-boat attack (e.g., instead of
having merchant or military ships stand alone, the British developed strategies which
allowed them to group these ships together, making a U-boat attack less severe or evasive

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While the development might have given a country might have given a country a temporary lead
or temporary advantage during WWI, this kind of lead soon dissipated with the development of a
counter measure. It also shows us that when we talk about the overall aspect of victory in WWI, it
was not necessarily a result of the development of any particular scientific application or new
technology
III. MASS COMBAT AND THE INTRODUCTION OF NEW LAND AND AIR WEAPONS
In WWI, the kind of coordination and organization that we take for granted when it comes to
military engagement today was simply not around during this period of time (e.g., the emphasis
placed on naval technologies, as opposed to land troops)
There wasn’t a great deal of coordination between the navy and the army this kind of
organization will only start taking place towards the end of the war
Strategy why was there such a problem with strategy when we talk about WWI as a whole?
o When WWI began, people’s expectations about how long the war was going to last were in
fact far off. With very few exceptions to the rule, when WWI started, there was this belief
amongst many political and military leaders on both sides that the war would last about 8
weeks.
o As the war grew longer, old strategies had to change, and new strategies had to be
developed and this was not always met with success
Transportation railroads were instrumental in transporting goods and troops across the
country, but the railroads only got you so far. Overtime the soldiers could use the trains to get to a
certain location, but then they’d have to walk to get to where the battle was happening
Communication one of the newer technologies available to both sides during the war was the
radio there were huge problems as the war progressed and became associated with trench
warfare. E.g., it was very difficult to correspond via radio communication in trench battles, simply
because orders could often not be heard amongst gunfire, bombs etc.
a. Barbed Wire and Guns
Barbed wire - a technology that had been used even in the 1800s and yet, barbed eliminated
one fundamental aspect of fighting using the element of surprise. When you add barbed wire to
trench warfare, it created a problem for military leaders
Machine guns not only were there negative attitudes, but there were major problems
associated with how to properly use the guns.
The machine can was first developed in the 19th century it had been used by most major
powers before WWI (i.e., battle between the Russian and Chinese in 1904) therefore why was
there a problem with strategy, and implementing and using the device itself?
By 1914, new methods of production are being used to produce new goods mass production
o “The war of mass production” – WWI was the first war where goods are going to be mass-
produced on a scale unlike anything before in history higher volume and cheaper costs.
Therefore, not only did each side have these technologies, but they also had more of these
technologies than ever before
o WWI was a war where both sides had access to similar technologies. E.g., the machine gun
had been used by many European nations in the 1800s against other civilizations that
didn’t have access similar technology. Often, European leaders would boast about the fact
that one machine gun could plow down thousands of native soldiers this was important
given the fact that the 1800s was the peak of colonization, where many European countries
exercised social, administrative, political and military control over other nations
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