Index The Garwin Archive


                         EDWIN H. LAND:

                   SCIENCE, AND PUBLIC POLICY


                       Richard L. Garwin

 (Published in The Irish Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons, 1993)

                     IBM Research Division
                Thomas J. Watson Research Center
                          P.O. Box 218
                   Yorktown Heights, NY 10598

                         (914) 945-2555

                 Adjunct Professor of Physics,
                      Columbia University;

                    Adjunct Research Fellow,
                  Kennedy School of Government
                      Harvard University)

                        November 9, 1991

                          Presented at

                         Light and Life
               A Symposium in Honor of Edwin Land

             American Academy of Arts and Sciences
                      Cambridge, MA  02138

  Q308LSPP                 110491LSPP                 11/12/91

  Edwin Land worked passionately to realize his vision for the
  betterment  of  society.    A  significant  portion  of  the
  fascinating  book  by   James R. Killian, Jr.      "Sputnik,
  Scientists,  and Eisenhower" is involved with Land, directly
  or indirectly, who was a member of the  President's  Science
  Advisory  Committee (PSAC) 1957-59, a Consultant-at-Large of
  PSAC from 1960-1973, and a member of the President's Foreign
  Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) 1961-77.

  But he was also a  member  of  the  National  Commission  on
  Technology,  Automation and Economic Progress 1964-66 and of
  the Carnegie Commission on  Educational  Television  1966-67
  and a Trustee of the Ford Foundation 1967-1975.

  His  vision  of  science for the public was a great one, and
  highly original.   It is presented,  for  instance,  in  his
  testimony  to the Senate Military Affairs Committees (at the
  Joint Hearings on Science Bills) October 1945.  At a time of
  great turmoil about  the  structure  of  the  United  States
  Government  for  the  advancement  and  control  of  nuclear
  energy, Land  testified  rather  on  bills  related  to  the
  National  Science  Foundation and the role of the government
  in science and technology.  He argued

            "...there can be no solution  because  we  do  not
            understand  the  nucleus  and we do not understand
            the Russians.  If, during the course of  the  next
            ten  years,  we can expand the American scientific
            community, expand to every locality  our  activity
            in  basic  and  applied science, get to understand
            the nucleus,  negotiate,  argue,  trade,  bargain,
            work  with,  and  finally  get  to  understand the
            Russians and get them to understand us,  then  (if
            during  this  period  we have had a similar policy
            for coming  to  understand  the  British  and  the
            French),  perhaps the terrible shadow may start to

  Indeed, members of this Academy have  taken  very  seriously
  the  mission  to  get  to  understand  the Russians, but the
  nation as a whole has not persistently  supported  education
  and   scholarship   in  understanding  foreign  peoples  and
  ourselves.   Land goes on with  his  vision  supporting  the
  general effort for

            "...discovering    the   scientific   talent   and
            fostering  its  development;  in  short   by   the
            production  of enough trained scientists, not only
            to work in basic science, but also to  participate
            in   every  phase  of  the  industrial  aspect  of
            community life."

  But also,

            "the other-- and this is the field of my  personal
            interest--  is  to  develop thousands of new small
            scientific industries..."

            "As  I  visualize  it,  the business of the future
            will be a scientific, social  and  economic  unit.
            It  will  be  vigorously  creative in pure science
            where its contributions will compare with those of
            the universities...  the machinist will  be  proud
            of  and  informed  about  the company's scientific
            advances; the scientist will enjoy  the  reduction
            to practice of his basic perceptions."

  And  he  continues  with  his  vision  of  a  thousand small
  companies,  each  employing  2000   people   (including   50
  scientists)  and grossing (in 1945) $20 M each, and spending
  $1 M on research, which  would  (given  inflation  alone  to
  1991)  spend  $10 B  on  research  and engineering annually,
  employ 2,000,000 people directly, and contribute  $200 B  to
  the national income directly "and much more indirectly."

            "And  year by year our national scene would change
            in the way, I think, all Americans dream of.  Each
            individual will be  a  member  of  a  group  small
            enough  so that he feels a full participant in the
            purpose and activity of the group.  His voice will
            be heard and his individuality recognized."

  What will these people do?

            "First of all, this  new  company  will  start  by
            contemplating  all  of the recent advances in pure
            science and in engineering.   Its  staff  will  be
            alive  to  the  significance  of  newly  available
            polyamide molecules...   a  group  of  fifty  good
            scientists  contemplating  one of these fields and
            inspired   by   curiosity   about   them   and   a
            determination  to  make  something new and useful,
            can invent and develop an important new  field  in
            about  two  years.    This  new  field  will  be a
            monopoly for the group-- a monopoly  in  the  best
            sense  of  the  word-- because it will derive from
            justifiable patents and important inventions,  and
            from   know-how   deliberately   acquired  by  the

            "While I feel that both the war  and  the  pre-war
            periods  have  demonstrated that the concentration
            (of  scientific  activity  and  of   distinguished
            scientists  in  a few large corporations) that did
            occur was of enormous benefit to the  country  and
            that  it  would  be a grave hazard to prevent such
            concentrations  from  occurring,  I  feel  equally
            strongly about the desirability of meeting what is
            objectionable  in  such  concentration  by  having
            thousands of  other  small  laboratories  as  well
            staffed   in   quality,   if   not   quantity,  of
            scientists.    These small laboratories because of
            their compactness, freedom from such institutional
            control as exists in large corporations, the close
            relationship that can exist between the  scientist
            and  the  people  making  their products, would, I
            believe, create far more new fields than would the
            large laboratories and it would be the best method
            of  preventing  significant  monopolies   in   any
            essential field."

  Edwin  Land  recommends the solution to monopoly be found in
  multiple monopolies which compete with  one  another.    His
  position  is one of opposition "to the concept that research
  by government should be  substituted  for  research  by  the
  small  business...  (which)  grows  strong by having its own
  scientists and by building itself around their efforts."

  He  completes  a  vision  of  the  National  Science   Board
  appointed  by the President and picking its own Director but
  provides an ingenious suggestion in  support  of  those  who
  oppose "the complete isolation of this scientific group from
  the  political  world."    And  that  is  a  "Joint  Liaison
  Committee consisting, for example, of three members  of  the
  board  and  three  members of congress" for mutual education

            "...particularly  suited   for   considering   one
            important problem for which a solution has not yet
            been  proposed:   the encouragement of individuals
            who are primarily interested in  new  applications
            of  recent advances in pure science rather than in
            basic inquiry itself..."

            "Those who  wish  to  strike  out  for  themselves
            should  have  the  opportunity  to  complete their
            inventions both theoretically and practically  and
            build them into actual enterprises."

  Although  Edwin  Land must have realized that much about him
  was unique, he tried to identify those elements of  his  own
  being and experience that could be replicated to the benefit
  of his nation and the world.

  According  to  David  Beckler's  detailed  notes  of  the 15
  October 1957 meeting of the Science Advisory  Committee  (of
  the   Office   of   Defense   Mobilization)  with  President
  Eisenhower 11 days after the Soviet Union launched the first
  artificial Earth satellite, Sputnik, Edwin  Land  urged  the
  President to involve the American people in the satisfaction
  of  scientific discovery; on 7 November Eisenhower in his TV
  and radio address remarked that one of the greatest and most
  glaring deficiencies of the citizenry was their  failure  to
  give high enough priority to scientific education and to the
  place of science in national life.

  Land's  emphasis on scientific education of the public was a
  lifelong interest, whether reflected in his later service on
  the Carnegie  Commission  on  Educational  Television  (with
  James R. Killian, Jr.), in his involving Polaroid production
  staff  in  the  work  of  the research laboratory, or in the
  "Introduction To Outer Space" issued by President Eisenhower
  26 March 1958, more than 33 years ago.  That perceptive  and
  inspiring  but  practical  document  was  written  by  Land,
  Edward M. Purcell  (from  whom  you  will  hear  later)  and
  Francis  Bello,  known  to  many  of  us  from his work with
  Fortune and Scientific American.

  I present the paragraph headings from "Introduction To Outer
  Space" as an indication of its content:

            1.  Why satellites stay up
            2.  The thrust into space
            3.  The moon as a goal
            4.  A message from Mars
            5.  Will the results justify the costs?
            6.  The view from a satellite
            7.  A close-up of the moon
            8.  And on to Mars
            9.  The satellite radio network
            10. Military applications of space technology
            11. Space timetable

  As Ken Olsen observed in his talk this  morning  about  Land
  and  Polaroid,  knowing  where  you  want  to  go  is  a big

  A small portion of "Introduction To Outer  Space"  addresses
  the military uses of space, noting

            "For  the most part, even the more sober proposals
            do not hold up well on close examination or appear
            to be achievable at an early date.   Granted  that
            they will become technologically possible, most of
            these  schemes,  nevertheless, appear to be clumsy
            and ineffective ways of doing a job. ..."    After
            the example of "dropping" a bomb from a satellite,
            the  report  continues, "This is only one example;
            each idea has to be judged on its own merits.  ...
            The  history  of science and technology reminds us
            sharply of the limitations of  our  vision.    Our
            road  to  future  strength  is  the achievement of
            scientific insight and technical skill by vigorous
            participation in these new explorations.  In  this
            setting,  our  appropriate  military strength will
            grow naturally and surely."

  In 1991, we are still  involved  with  questions  about  the
  proper military use of space, and much that "Introduction To
  Outer  Space"  envisaged  has come to pass.  But not without
  effort and vision, and in this exploitation  of  space,  Din
  Land played a pivotal role.

  Most  of the following can be found in James Killian's book,
  on which I rely in part to avoid problems  with  information
  still  classified  secret,  and  in part because I could not
  better   Jim   Killian's    authoritative    and    eloquent
  descriptions.    Land  had  been  a  member  of the Steering
  Committee of the  Technological  Capabilities  Panel  (TCP),
  which  was  a  sensitive  and highly classified study led by
  Killian 1954-55, intended to  provide  President  Eisenhower
  with  a  comprehensive assessment of the Soviet first-strike
  nuclear threat to the United States and the U.S. ability  to
  prevent  or  withstand it.   An essential element of TCP was
  the  Intelligence  Committee  headed  by  Din  Land,   which
  conducted  a  no-holds-barred  review  of  U.S. intelligence
  information and capabilities.    That  Land  Panel  included
  William O. Baker  of  Bell  Labs, Ed Purcell of Harvard, and
  John Tukey of Princeton.  The panelists used  to  joke  that
  they  could  hold  a  panel  meeting  in a taxicab, and they
  probably would have if  the  information  had  not  been  so
  sensitive.    For  their frequent trips around Washington in
  radio-dispatched  CIA  automobiles,   the   panelists   were
  prudently assigned code names.

  I  was  not  associated  with the Technological Capabilities
  Panel.  I had helped build the first  hydrogen  bomb  in  my
  early  summers at Los Alamos 1950-52 and then, after joining
  the IBM company,  I  worked  about  half-time  1953-54  with
  Jerome  Wiesner  and  Jerrold  Zacharias  on  extensions  of
  continental air defense, and soon after Sputnik worked  with
  Bill  Baker  and  others  on  some  of  the matters that had
  interested the TCP intelligence section.  Then for more than
  a decade, until 1973 or so, I was a  member  of  Din  Land's
  Panel advisory to the President's Science Advisor, which was
  intimately   involved   with  government  organizations  and
  industrial  contractors  in   the   evolution   of   imaging

  Photographic  reconnaissance  has a long history, and by the
  time I had any real contact with it during  September,  1952
  in  Korea,  it  had  evolved to enormous aerial cameras with
  facilities for image-motion compensation (IMC).   I  suppose
  the  intelligence section of the TCP found the same cameras,
  which would not be very convenient for providing photography
  of "denied areas" such as the Soviet  union.    Yet  it  was
  clear  that  there  were  vast  uncertainties  as  to Soviet
  military capability, particularly  in  regard  to  ballistic
  missiles, and the ability to take suitable photographs would
  be  extremely  valuable.    Killian  tells  the story of the
  marriage of small-format  high-resolution  cameras  and  the
  modified  sail  plane  concept to create the U-2, so quickly
  and elegantly achieved by Kelly Johnson in the  skunk  works
  at  Lockheed.    Previously  rejected  by the Air Force, the
  concept was validated and given  life  by  the  Intelligence
  Committee of the TCP.

  The system was feasible only because of the recognition that
  high-resolution  film  would allow scaling down the size and
  weight of the camera  so  that  it  would  fit  on  a  light
  aircraft  that  could  fly  at  altitudes  then  beyond  the
  capability  of  any  Soviet  air  defense system.   And this
  remained true until the 1960 downing of the  U-2  flight  of
  Gary  Powers.    Of  course, within a couple of months after
  that politically disastrous  event  the  United  States  was
  receiving  photographic  images from satellites, in the form
  of film cassettes returned in reentry vehicles equipped with
  parachutes and snagged by aircraft over  the  Pacific  Ocean
  before they could fall into the sea.

  In  recalling  Edwin Land, I note his reaction to the Soviet
  shoot-down of the U-2 in 1960, cited by Killian,

            "The    president    himself     accepted     full
            responsibility  for  the  flight.    In  1960,  in
            commenting on this episode, Dr. Edwin Land said in
            a commencement address: 'It was not a question  of
            the  ineptitude  that  might  be  revealed  by the
            truth, or  the  possible  damage  that  the  whole
            program of negotiation for peace may have suffered
            ...  and  it  was  not  a question of whether with
            foresight that particular crisis could  have  been
            avoided.    The  issue was this: Does an American,
            when he represents all Americans, have to tell the
            truth at any cost?   The answer is  yes,  and  the
            consequence  of  the answer is that our techniques
            for influencing the rest of the  world  cannot  be
            rich  and  flexible  like  the  techniques  of our
            competitors.  We can be dramatic, even theatrical;
            we can be  persuasive;  but  the  message  we  are
            telling must be true.'"

  As  I got to know him in the work of the Land Panel over the
  next 13 years or so, it was clear  that  absolute  integrity
  underlay this man of genius and vision.  I don't believe Din
  Land  would  have  been  happy  with the lack of respect for
  truth in more recent Administrations.

  Bill Baker recounts that in the late 1950s, he and Din  Land
  and  Jerry  Wiesner would meet over dinner in Washington and
  "tell  one  another  stories"  of  the  latest  discoveries,
  inventions,  and  clever  solutions  to problems.   Din Land
  evidently felt no need to keep his good  ideas  to  himself.
  Din  and  Jerrold  Zacharias  would  engage  in "competitive
  inventing," sometimes on  real  problems  and  sometimes  on
  toys.   These same qualities of insight and fun were evident
  in Din Land's leadership of the Land Panel on  which  I  was
  privileged to serve until about 1973.

  About  the  activities  of  the  Land Panel, I can give only
  impressions of the atmosphere of  that  activity,  and  even
  there  must  ignore  some important aspects.   We would meet
  several times a year for two or three days in Washington  or
  in  the field at contractor establishments to understand the
  capabilities  of  existing  systems  and  the  options   for
  improvement.    At  times, there were serious problems to be
  addressed; at times great opportunities.  The Land Panel did
  not so much invent new  concepts  as  evaluate  and  choose.
  Sometimes,  there were obvious technical mergers to be made,
  and occasionally a key missing element was  supplied  during
  Panel  discussion.  Land's addiction to thought and work was
  obvious at these Panel meetings.

  When we met at Polaroid, we  could  look  forward  to  small
  sandwiches  brought  in  from Elsie's; my favorite was cream
  cheese and caviar.   Somewhat later,  we  would  meet  in  a
  magnificent  boardroom  at  Polaroid,  and would be provided
  dinner by Din's cook.  Occasionally our Panel meetings would
  run until midnight, and even then we would look  forward  to
  spending  30  minutes after the meeting with Din in his lab,
  looking at his "Mondrian" or other striking  aspect  of  his
  current  research.    I  recall  that  one  session ended at
  daybreak, but that was unusual, even for Din Land.

  The thought and dedication of the Panel members and of  Land
  himself  is  hardly  reflected  in  dry  phrases such as the
  following that I excerpt from a draft report I  provided  in
  1965  at  Din's request, evidently attempting to reflect his
  leadership and the Panel consensus:

            "The  Panel...    was  requested  ...  review  the
            current  status of three programs and to recommend
            what direction the national effort should take  in
            order  to  realize  the economic, operational, and
            above  all,  the  end-product  advantages   of   a
            successful system of this type. ..."

  Of  course, the resulting report was very specific about the
  "three programs..."

  Because  of  its  importance  and  controversial  nature,  a
  crucial  report  of  July 1971 required a formal position on
  the part of each of the seven members  of  the  Land  Panel.
  Having been asked by Din Land to provide the draft report, I
  was  also  saddled  with  successive  modifications and with
  getting final approval from each of the members.   This  was
  no  small  feat  for  a report that had to be distributed by
  courier and viewed without retaining a copy.   Nevertheless,
  approvals  came  quickly (with the help of Land's secretary,
  Natalie Fultz, in tracking down the panelists)-- all  except
  the  final  endorsement  of  the  last Panel member, who was
  vacationing in Hawaii.   I plotted carefully  when  I  might
  reach   him   by  telephone  without  interfering  with  his
  pleasures, and decided that 5:30 pm would be optimum.  Aware
  of the six-hour time difference between Hawaii and New York,
  I planned the call to reach him at 5:30 and, to my pleasure,
  found him in his room.  It took only a moment to realize  my
  mistake;  the  time in Hawaii was 5:30 am.  We got it sorted
  out, and the report was unanimously endorsed and  eventually
  implemented, although not without bureaucratic problems.

  The  legacy  of  Edwin  Land is thus to be found not only in
  this building and in the Polaroid Corporation that he built,
  but in one of the greatest success stories of our age--  the
  systems  that  provide our leaders with an awareness of what
  is going on in the world, if only we are wise enough to know
  where to look and to interpret what we see.

  I believe it would be foolish-- no, it would be tragic--  to
  follow the siren song urging that we put actual weapons into
  space,  or  that  we  must  be ready to destroy photographic
  satellites launched by  some  nation  not  friendly  to  our
  cause.    We  depend heavily on our own satellites to gather
  vital information,  and  it  is  far  easier  to  destroy  a
  satellite  than to build another highly capable one.  Sadly,
  "a (satellite) eye  for  a  (satellite)  eye"  would  be  no
  consolation  for us and little deterrent for an opponent; we
  can hardly organize the wrath of  nations  against  a  power
  using  an  antisatellite  weapon  (ASAT)  against one of our
  satellites while  maintaining  that  our  own  use  of  ASAT
  against  other  satellites  would be legitimate.  Our course
  should be that of conviction and leadership toward the early
  conclusion  of  a   universal   Treaty   banning   satellite
  destruction  or  tests  of such antisatellite systems, and a
  Presidential declaration would go far toward realizing  that

  To   summarize,   I  quote  Killian  now  at  length,  in  a
  description to which I fully subscribe:

            "The figure of Edwin Land exemplifies the kind  of
            scientist  who  appealed  to  Eisenhower  and  who
            helped to make science advice welcome at the White

            "Land is an  authentic  genius.    His  powers  of
            exposition,  his  facility  in  expressing complex
            ideas in novel, witty, and  clarifying  ways,  can
            lift  a  meeting  or a report to a higher level of
            discourse.      In   addition   to   heading   the
            intelligence   division   of   the   Technological
            Capabilities Panel,  he  was  a  member  of  PSAC,
            chairing  one of its most sensitive panels, and of
            the President's Board of  Consultants  on  Foreign
            Intelligence  Activities.  In these assignments he
            pointed  the  way  to  the  development   of   new
            intelligence-gathering    technology,    such   as
            reconnaissance planes and  satellites,  that  have
            given unique powers, benign in their operation, to
            American   intelligence   agencies,   undergirding
            policy decisions of immense consequence and saving
            the nation billions of dollars.

            "In meetings with  presidents  his  eloquence  and
            lucid  exposition incited their latent imagination
            and  prompted  them  to  make  decisions  and   to
            undertake  leadership  roles  that had been, until
            then, beyond their reach.

            "During  these  activities when he was a colleague
            of mine at the White House, he was also building a
            great company.   As chairman of the  board  he  is
            Polaroid's  chief  executive officer, but he likes
            to think  of  himself  as  primarily  director  of
            research,  emphasizing, as he does, that the chief
            executive officer of a company  such  as  Polaroid
            should be the director of research.

            "While  accomplishing  all of these things, he has
            been  doing   basic   research   in   vision   and
            contributing   ideas   in  education  to  MIT  and
            Harvard--  ideas  that  have  grown  out  of   his
            conviction  that  each human being has a potential
            for creative accomplishment that can  be  realized
            by the right environment and the skilled influence
            of   creative   teachers   who   believe  in  this

            "Recently, in  reminiscing  about  the  Eisenhower
            days, Din Land (as his friends and associates call
            him)   expressed   the   feeling  that  his  major
            contribution as an adviser had been to  convey  to
            the  president  and other leaders something of the
            humanistic and aesthetic values of  science.    He
            took  greater  pride in this act of 'teaching' the
            qualities  and  values  of  science  than  in  his
            immense    technical    contributions    to    the
            strengthening of our military,  intelligence,  and
            space technology.

            "At the latest count he holds five hundred patents
            and  has  been  elected  to  the Inventors Hall of
            Fame, but his inventions are  by-products  of  his
            deep commitment to science.

            "Let  me be more personal.  It has been a rare and
            enriching privilege for me to be  associated  with
            him in a variety of missions and enterprises for a
            quarter   of  a  century.    To  all  these  joint
            undertakings he has contributed fresh insights,  a
            sense of adventure, and a 'vision of greatness.'"

  We  continue to benefit from the talents and efforts of this
  great man.