Crafting the Two Cultures: Identifying and Educating Future Scientists and Non-Scientists in America, 1910–1970

Rebecca Miller Graduate School of Education, Harvard University 2010-2011 Dissertation Research Fellow The sciences are unique among the disciplines to the extent in which educators routinely consider the choice of study a choice of identity. Indeed, we do not commonly speak of the different needs and civic responsibilities of “non-social-scientists” or “non-humanists,” but in the twentieth century such distinctions among science students became commonplace. My dissertation examines how 20th-century U.S. educators constructed and effectuated the notions of “future scientist” and “non-scientist” as distinct kinds of people with particular educational needs, and it considers how changes in these categories reflected changing views of the nature of science and its place in American society. A PACHS Dissertation Research Fellowship in the fall of 2010 supported research for this project at the American Philosophical Society and the Chemical Heritage Foundation. At these institutions, I examined archival materials related to the two main areas of research and practice through which educators imposed rational order on scientific study: vocational guidance and the curriculum. The materials I studied during my fellowship focused primarily on educators’ responses to a perceived Cold War crisis of scientific manpower. At the American Philosophical Society, two collections in particular shed light on mid-century efforts to understand, measure, and predict scientific aptitude and interest. Leonard Carmichael was a psychologist, president of Tufts University from 1938 to 1952, and director of the National Roster of Scientific and Specialized Personnel during World War II. Materials from his years on the College Entrance Examination Board led me to an array of aptitude and interest measures that were proposed, developed, and used in the 1940s and 1950s. Papers on his leadership at Tufts indicate that college counselors mass-administered these instruments and used the results to help them guide students choosing majors and careers. As I continue analyzing the notes and images I collected from Carmichael’s files, I will examine how these instruments and their application defined what constituted scientific promise and how this changed over time. The Society also preserves the papers of Anne Roe, a psychologist who, in 1953, published the first piece of an influential study of the personalities of successful scientists. Roe’s project (which continued into the 1960s and spawned related studies at the Harvard Center for Research in Careers and elsewhere) is representative of educational researchers’ mid-century fixation on predicting scientific specialization and success, but it also indicates a growing concern with the role of sociological as well as psychological factors in shaping young people’s scientific destinies. Roe’s manuscripts reveal this disciplinary transition, as well as many underlying assumptions about the nature of scientific practice that informed her project and its conclusions. My research at the Chemical Heritage Foundation largely focused on papers related to the educational functions of the American Chemical Society. Thanks to the expert guidance of archivist Andrew Mangravite, I was able to examine abundant material on chemist-educators’ projects to reform high school and college chemistry teaching in the 1950s and 1960s. Their debates and initiatives reveal a struggle to reconcile an ongoing concern with the “quality” of scientific talent with new demands for greater “quantity” of scientific professionals. Their materials raise questions about whether “scientists” and “non-scientists” should be educated separately, and what scientific knowledge is required for each group—or, when that knowledge is shared in common, why that should be the case. Their materials also pointed to fissures within the “scientist” and “non-scientist” construct, as chemist-educators worked to define whether teachers could rightly be considered “chemists” and what kind of scientific knowledge was required for technical paraprofessionals trained in community colleges. My research in Philadelphia introduced me to a wealth of relevant material and a number of promising new directions for this project. I am indebted to the scholars, archivists, and librarians who offered helpful suggestions and guidance during my visit. I am grateful for the encouragement and assistance of the Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science, which, in addition to granting financial support for this work, provided access to a dynamic and inspiring intellectual community.