Vannevar Bush was at the forefront of American research policy during World War II, but he suffered a steep fall after the war, and by 1948 had left government service altogether. What motivated such a significant loss of influence? Drawing on previously unexamined sources, this article traces the causes of Bush’s decline in authority to his loss of powerful allies, particularly with the death of Franklin Roosevelt and the retirement of Henry Stimson; to his long-standing feuds with military leaders; and to several political missteps on Bush’s part that alienated figures in Congress and elsewhere. Continued examples of personal conflict in the postwar period not only impacted Bush’s career, but also shaped the structure of the resulting institutions that emerged to fund Cold War–era science. Rather than an abrupt change occurring immediately after the war, the postwar transition to public institutions was both gradual and influenced by the personal networks that preceded it. Bush’s quiet departure from government was tied to the emergence of military dominance in American research, largely at the expense of civilian scientific leaders. Such a shift in control of research policy had a dramatic effect on resulting postwar initiatives, closely connecting scientific advancements to national security.

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