ABSTRACT:

In the summer of 1951, more than one hundred scientists and other academics participated in Project Vista, a secret study hosted by the California Institute of Technology. Its purpose was to determine how existing technologies as well as ones soon to be available——tactical nuclear weapons, in particular——could offset NATO's weaker conventional forces and repel a massive Soviet invasion of Europe many perceived as likely if not imminent. Despite the best efforts of scientists like William Fowler, Lee DuBridge, and J. Robert Oppenheimer, Vista's recommendations were eventually suppressed by the Air Force. This article examines the history of Project Vista as a circumstance of the early Cold War period. By focusing primarily on the local level, the article presents a detailed examination of how people were recruited to Project Vista, how their work was organized and managed, and the relations between Caltech's administration and trustees. Finally, this article considers the history of postwar universities as they struggled to adapt to the Cold War environment and scientists' efforts to provide counsel to the U.S. government and military.

This content is only available via PDF.