Abstract: German Scientific Connections in Early U.S. Materials R&D

Margaret Graham

Abstract

American scientists trained in Germany shaped the emerging institution of U.S. industrial R&D from 1900 to World War II. Inside early corporate laboratories the way R&D was conducted reflected the critical role of German science, especially physical chemistry, in the electro-chemical revolution. U.S. scientists educated in Germany were essential to mounting an industrial research effort before World War I. They formed networks that transcended institutional boundaries. During the war some produced substitutes for unobtainable German products. After the war, in new materials such as specialty glasses and strengthened aluminum, the German connection became even more valuable to U.S. industry. Following the lead of the ''Pioneering Laboratories,'' American companies snatched up German-trained scientists in a race to establish corporate laboratories. Though emphasis has been placed on their scientific approach, in all materials-related research it was the ability to transcend the boundary between science and practice that made these men successful. Their familiarity with German industry and their shared philosophy of how to run productive research programs influenced the problems they chose to pursue, and provided channels for knowledge and know-how to spread among U.S. corporate laboratories, even across related industries.