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Secretary of Science


The success of Sputnik has given rise to a tremendous number of proposals, indictments, and disclaimers--and a great deal of confusion. J. Allen Hynek, Director of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, is one of the few responsible leaders to realize the satellite's implications and make a constructive suggestion. He proposes that a Secretary of Science be added to the Cabinet.

Clearly some such post should be created. At present there is no one close to the President thoroughly conversant with scientific developments, and, consequently, the government's missile program is muddled and inefficient. The army and the navy seem far more inclined to fire missiles at each other than into outer space.

The great defect of Hynek's proposal is that it is politically impracticable. There is already too much confusion of authority in Washington; the Secretary of Science's domain would be hopelessly intertwined with almost every other department, particularly Defense and Health, Education and Welfare.

Yet there is real need for an independent-minded scientist in the highest echelons of government. The practical way to get one there is to create a post for a distinguished scientist directly under the President, as a member of the White House staff. From this vantage point, a scientist could serve as a liaison between the President and the nation's research workers, and give independent advice about the government's own projects.

Among the morass of politically-minded second lieutenants in the White House, the addition of a responsible scientist to the corps would do the nation no harm.

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