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The position of the engineer in our postwar society

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1 Author(s)

Of recent years, an active debate has been carried on relative to the justification of work in the field of "pure science" as opposed to the desirability of endeavor in the domain of "applied technology." One group of thinkers has felt that the pursuit of truth for its own sake was not only more satisfying intellectually and more stimulating to the dignity of the investigator but also, in the long run, more likely to benefit science, engineering, and society through the discovery of basic facts susceptible of many later useful applications. Other thinkers have insisted that "pure science" was nothing more than a meaningless exploration in a social and economic vacuum, and that it constituted a sort of cloistered and self-indulgent scientific "doodling" by the research worker and was thus unworthy of encouragement. Society, these thinkers proclaim, is entitled to ask the expensively trained investigator, using costly facilities and the help of his fellow workers, to produce results markedly slanted toward practically immediate and major social benefit. As correlative disputes, there have been argued such questions as the following. Should research be institutionally subsidized by government? Should the engineer enter the political and industrial-management arenas to preside, at least in part, over the social destinies of his mental products? Can and should a research or development worker become an industrial leader or a political figure of prominence? And so the conflicts rage. It is accordingly interesting to bring one viewpoint to our readers in the following forceful Guest Editorial by a leading engineer who is chairman of the Institute's Papers Procurement Committee and also vice-president of the Emerson Radio and Phonograph Corporation.

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Proceedings of the IRE  (Volume:35 ,  Issue: 5 )