How Harvard University Was Influenced by World War 2, Term Paper Example
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Harvard University was established in 1636 as Harvard College at Cambridge, Massachusetts where the university ultimately developed. In the United States, Harvard University happen to be the most archaic higher education institution with most of the graduates from the university taking active positions of employment in the civil ranks as well as clerical duties in Massachusetts. The stature of Harvard University was eventually elevated to national standards during the 19th century, followed by its elevation to a global standard with subsequent formation of several graduate as well as professional institutions alongside Harvard University as a nucleus college for undergraduates.
Some of the faculties at Harvard University played a crucial role in influencing national issues such as the faculties of business, medicine, law and arts and sciences. Harvard University has been a remarkably prestigious institution over the 19th century as compared to any other institution internationally, having a library system as well as a financial endowment of exceptionally large size to an extent that cannot be compared with any other institution. This paper posits to critically analyze the influence that World War 2 had on Harvard University with particular interest in the school itself, the faculty and staff, and finally the student population (Golden, 2006).
Education in the society is a critical social process whose meaning is attributed to peoples’ culture in the nation. The implications of war involving academic professional, the institution and the students in the form of volunteer armies has consequences on the normal life of the citizens though they may not be felt immediately or directly. The consequences of the victory in World War 2 in relation to education were realized much later in form of disruption of critical infrastructures in the education system (Golden, 2006). The customary education progress encountered serious consequences after the war came to an end. The beginning of the World War 2 came at a time that the United States was unprepared thus forcing the government to devise and improvise mechanisms leading to the use of education for defense.
Soon after the end of the World War 2, the fortunes of Harvard were entirely pegged on United States thus facilitating its riding to high levels with the ascendance of the US to a global super power. The post war era saw a closer association between the federal government and Harvard in response to increased appropriation of financing by the Congress for the purposes of engaging in scientific research coupled with expansion of the institution.
The World War 2 era was marked by a cozy relationship between Washington and Harvard and sturdy ties being maintained between the governments of the United States since the signing of the “Declaration of Independence” by the eight men who were the founders of Harvard. However, the bond changed the initial meaning at the time of World War 2. The federal funding that was allocated to Harvard in the later days of 1800s was directed to the promotion of education after the Office of Education had been established in 1867 (Golden, 2006). Most of the funding that was allocated to the University during World War 2 was directed to research as well as academics in the development of technology which was anticipated to give a competitive edge to the military with Axis power.
The president of the University at the time called James Conant was a professional chemist and thus played an instrumental role in the facilitation of an interchange of technology between the government and the University. James Conant was the head of a research unit at Chemical Warfare Service at the time of World War 2 which played a pivotal role in the creation of mustard gas. On the onset of the war, James Conant embraced the opportunity accorded by the U.S government of advancing and updating the military technology. The president of the University also headed National Defense Research Council that was responsible for creation of atomic bomb and played a leading role in Manhattan Project that spearheaded atomic bomb formation. The contribution of the president of the University, James Conant in the World War 2 in development of science was a foundation for the post-war cooperation between the government and the University.
The president of the University, James Conant therefore contributed in benefiting the University from the federal funding to aid science research. Other disciplines such as humanities and social sciences were heavily deprived the needed funding. After passing of the 1944 G. I. Bill, more funds were allocated to the university to facilitate for the training of two million veterans. The financial support given to the university by the government led to rapid expansion of the university in the course of the World War 2 era (Shoemaker, 2007). As the World War 2 came to an end, the United States was indisputably conceived as the dominant power from the west since Europe had already been ravaged by the war.
The European nations were casualties of losses in terms of infrastructure damages as well as monetary losses. This was a moment of prosper in America as her competitors went down in shambles and therefore the universities in the US including Harvard University thrived well to higher levels of educational preeminence.
In 1941, the president of Harvard University proposed that, just like any other citizen in the country, the university community was also obligated to actively engage in efforts that will lead to success of the entire nation in the war (Hechinger, 2008). He therefore pledged that, all resources associated with the University were available for government use in any way deemed relevant in gaining victory in World War 2. This was a beginning of reducing the number of civilian students in the University. The government readily embraced the offer by the University president leading to recruitment of approximately 3000 personnel from the armed forces in the University to take various courses (Hechinger, 2008). With unrelenting decrease in the number of civilian students, it was apparent that the wartime education at Harvard was remarkably different with respect to scholastic content relative to what was offered during peacetime.
For the civilian people who intended to pursue courses in Harvard University, they had to be prepared to be trained so that they can take part in the war. The university therefore had a wartime academic philosophy that was made explicit to everyone intending to join the university during the World War 2. The civilians were made aware of the fact that, unless they conformed with the wartime academic philosophy involving readiness for war, then their presence in the university was not needed. The administrators in the university had a firm believe that all college men must be physically qualified and trained to take participation in the Armed Services if the federal agency had not otherwise assigned an alternative duty to the student. The vacations occurring during the summer were marked with peacetime pleasures but additional third summer term comprising of 12 weeks was incorporated in the schedule thus changing the normal system of two semesters.
The undergraduate life had to dominate the freshman class with majority of the students having to comply with the draft. The students were squeezed in a small number of Houses with the Yard being taken by the military. The Eliot House and the Kirkland House were converted as the headquarters of V-12 which was a newly formed Navy program (Shoemaker, 2007). Other residences such as the Winthrop as well as Leverett Houses were also surrendered to the Army and assigned to the V-12 and the ASTP to occupy. The only residential places reserved for the civilians were the Dunster , Adams as well as the Lowell Houses although the status quo was interrupted at around June 1944, having being taken over by the Army Air Force (Shoemaker, 2007).
The members of the V-12 and the ASTP soon increased twofold and the military therefore formed the greatest portion of the student population at Harvard University. They furthered their commissions as well as degree courses while still serving the interests of the Army and therefore, their daily schedules were extremely busy at all times. In the Eliot House for example, a typical schedule waking up very early and at 00600 hours, the students were engaged into a running exercise covering approximately two miles (Shoemaker, 2007).
The naval officers in the University were expected to have swabbed their decks, conducting cleaning in the rooms and ready for inspection before attending to their normal classes that were scheduled to start at 0800 hours which took a significant portion of the morning hours. Prior to their dinner they were scheduled for a physical drill.
Having undergone a schedule of this nature in University life, life for the students was marked by a peace-time pleasure that was forgotten in the lives of the students and the students remained damned frightened at most times of their university life. This atmosphere resulted to a situation that, the opinion of the students was stagnated especially the civilians. The source of news became the Service News that was published on weekly basis, thus consigning the conventional CRIMSON to the dustbin of history until the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in April, 1945 (Keller & Keller, 2001). The student council was also deprived the vigor and energy that it initially enjoyed and they could not discuss significant issues other than the quality of food. As noted by Keller & Keller, (2001), “the college kitchens retained their functions although at one time at the Society of Fellows they the students with horsemeat” (Keller & Keller, 2001).
With the coming of the widely unpublicized Dewey-Roosevelt presidential election, the interests were stirred up by the events of the war. Following the June 6, 1944 arrival of Allies in Normandy, thoughts of victory became apparent in the minds of most students and Hechinger, (2008) asserts that, the air had an aura with that was marked with an astonishing gloom at the beginning of the Bastogne Battle (Hechinger, 2008). With all these developments however, the life at the university progressed as if nothing irregular was on course. A common feature among the students in the university was wearing of uniforms and the Radcliffe girls dominated the lecture halls at Harvard University. For the undergraduates who had not been previously exposed to pre-war university atmosphere, the use of metal trays in the kitchen as well as double decker beds was not an unusual experience.
The university faculty and staff were also affected by the events at Harvard University at the time. A significant number of tutors opted for taking a leave of absence from work and although a substantial number of the teaching staff remained, the university had to seek the assistance of professors who were recalled from their retirement. Drastic changes were implemented in academics at Harvard University (Shoemaker, 2007). Majority of the courses offering liberal arts programs were omitted from the university catalogue leaving only the staples that were reserved for the tutors who performed exceptionally well in the field of their proficiency (Hechinger, 2008). More resources were allocated to the science programs and the existing laboratories were converted in to research centers for war related technologies and top secrets were consequently upheld in the labs. The obligation of the university faculty and staff in these fields of science involved engaging the students in programs of intensive training while using strange languages that contradicted the conventional Germanic and Romantic that had prevailed in the university during peace time. A lot of emphases were given to Japanese, Chinese as well as Russian languages because these were the languages of preference for the Armed Service. Harvard University gave significant contribution in the training of the students in Armed Service (Shoemaker, 2007).
The curriculum at Harvard University was also modified to accommodate courses in meteorology, military geology, aerial mapping, camouphlage as well as accelerated programs. Another important inclusion in the university curriculum involved a secret program of radio electronic detection that was exclusively administered to marine officers, the Army as well as the Navy. The “Conant’s Arsenal” of 1942 engaged in research on aerial photography, blood plasma derivatives, anti-malarial drugs, sonar, protocomputer, jamming, explosives, napalm, synthesized quinine, innovative burns and shock medication as well as night vision (Hechinger, 2008).
More researchers were assigned to work on atomic bomb as well as code breaking and by the year 1945, Harvard University had substantial contracts from the government that accounted for $33.5 million which ranked third in income compared to other universities in the United States (Hechinger, 2008).
Most of the faculty members and staff at Harvard University joined the armed service thus making the university a war footing. Significant expansion was recorded in war-related science courses at the university resulting to acquisition of the Austin Hall in the Law School at the Harvard along with the Hemenway Gymnasium to considered as additional space to accommodate the proliferating war-related science courses. Most of the activities that were executed behind the closed doors could hardly be disclosed and remained as top secrets.
The president of the university chaired National Research Defense Committee at the time and thus used this position to secure about 900 contracts from the government that had significant implications on the war. Such projects included a Radio Research Laboratory that was worth $16 million and the Underwater Sound Laboratory that was worth $8million (Shoemaker, 2007). Most of the university faculty and staff members included professors and academicians who were exemtionally qualified in war-related science research. For example, George B. Kistiakowsky was a chemistry professor who made significant contribution in testing innovative explosives and the Manhattan Project that was involved in knowledge of bomb triggering. On the other hand, Louis Fieser was an organic chemistry professor who was charged with a crucial role of inventing the “Harvard candle” that involved the napalm, the M-1 fire starter as well as the lightweight incendiary grenades which were applicable in sabotage (Hechinger, 2008).
Another important university faculty member of the time was Fred Lawrence Whipple, an astronomer at the university who played a critical role in the invention of aluminum strip foils called the “chaff” that were applicable in duping the radar of the enemy. Experts in Electro-Acoustic Laboratory based at the Oxford Street also made significant contribution in research to come up with approaches of noise reduction while long-range bombers were used and this led to the innovation of fiberglass. The Hemenway Underwater Sound Laboratory accommodated approximately 450 workers comprising of majority women in the development of sonar (Shoemaker, 2007).
The field testing of the preliminary findings for this research was conducted at the Spy Pond. The results of the sonar as well as torpedo research gave a direction to the supremacy of the Nazi submarine wolf packs. The Harvard Fatigue Laboratory I Harvard Business School also made crucial contribution in setting appropri8ate standards of diet, clothing as well as survival gear to thrive comfortably in extreme environments.
The effects associated with the World War 2 at Harvard University, just like many other institutions of learning led to an imposition of new demands. The war resulted in the disruption of normal learning schedules and programs in the institution so as to accommodate programs tailored to achieve victory in the war as well as vocational preparation. The university administration devoted all crucial resources that were perceived to have a competitive edge in the war. The students and the faculty members and staff were also prepared to be resourceful to the war. The university therefore encountered a scenario of a threat of disappearance of conventional academic programs as well as schedules with only the programs that had a positive impact on victory in the war being uninterrupted (Keller & Keller, 2001).
The changes witnessed in the education system at Harvard University were a pointer that, the education system in the United States has been engrossed in continuous criticism. The revelation from the events associated with the World War 2 involved the capability of Americans in addressing gigantic crisis using their cultural traditions as well as education aims.
Golden, D., (2006). The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges—and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates. ISBN 1-4000-9796-7.
Hechinger, J., (2008). “Harvard Hit by Loss as Crisis Spreads to Colleges”. Wall Street Journal. p. A1.
Keller, M. & Keller, P., (2001). Making Harvard Modern: The Rise of America’s University. Oxford University Press. pp. 463–481. ISBN 0-19-514457-0.
Shoemaker, S. P., (2007). “The Theological Roots of Charles W. Eliot’s Educational Reforms”. Journal of Unitarian Universalist History 31: 30–45.
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