In the early 1980s, David Shirley tried to launch a new synchrotron light source for materials science at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (LBL). Building accelerators was LBL's stock-in-trade. Yet with the Advanced Light Source (ALS) nothing proceeded as in the past. Whereas nuclear and high energy physicists had been happy when funding was procured for new machines, materials scientists were irritated to learn that Shirley had brokered a deal with Presidential Science Advisor George Keyworth to fund the ALS. Materials scientists valued accelerators less because materials science had benefitted less from large-scale devices; such devices were therefore uncommon in their field. The project also faced competition and the criticism that LBL managers wanted it only to help their laboratory weather the threatening times that came with Ronald Reagan and his promise to cut the size of government (and in fact that was a part of the rationale). The ALS also suffered because Shirley's deal was ill-suited for Washington in the 1980s. Scientists were less influential than in previous decades and a more robust federal bureaucracy controlled funding. Other ALS advocates eventually crafted a convincing scientific justification, recruited potential users, and guided the proposal through materials science reviews and the proper Washington channels. Although one-on-one deal making àà la Ernest Lawrence was a relic of the past, Shirley did bargain collectively with other directors, paving the way for ALS funding and a retooling of the national laboratories and materials science: in the 1990s and 2000s the largest Department of Energy accelerators were devoted to materials science, not nuclear or high-energy physics.
Retooling for the Future: Launching the Advanced Light Source at Lawrence's Laboratory, 1980––1986
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Catherine Westfall; Retooling for the Future: Launching the Advanced Light Source at Lawrence's Laboratory, 1980––1986. Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 1 November 2008; 38 (4): 569–609. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/hsns.2008.38.4.569
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