War has always been one of the most powerful motivators for scientific advancement. As astrophysicist and science popularizer Neil DeGrasse Tyson noted in his 2013 Rice University commencement address, “No one has ever spent big money just to explore. No one has ever done that. I wish they did, but they don’t. We went to the moon on a war driver. That part got cleansed from our memory.” Of President George H.W. Bush’s 1989 proposal to send humans to Mars, Tyson said, “People were saying, ‘We’ve lost our drive, we’ve lost our will.’ No, it’s the same will we’ve ever had. We just weren’t threatened.”
World War I was no different. This article details some the ways in which that scientific advancement was occurring at the time, a silver lining to the ultimate dark cloud. Later in World War II, that scientific advancement would come most prominently in the form of the Manhattan Project and nuclear weapons.
War Has Taught Our Chemists Many Secrets: Need of Products Which Europe Cannot Now Supply Has Successfully Stimulated Experts to Produce Satisfactory Substitutes
From September 17, 1916