Role of science in World War II

How science was reshaped due to the important role assigned to it during World War II

Science and technology were the spheres that developed dramatically during the World War II as they were required for supremacy in military might. Scientists and governments (major funding suppliers) were interested in technological advances as the way to victory. The huge paradox of science of that time lies in the fact that the efforts of scientists aimed at invention of effective means of mass destruction, not the means to protect people. War had huge negative impact on nations, but grounds of many important technologies people use now were lied in World War II. World War II greatly reshaped the science as it was the most powerful means to achieve the victory and world supremacy, getting a lot of funding and attention. The purpose of the paper is to analyze what role was given to science and how science has changed during the World War II, particularly in Germany, The US and the USSR.

Role of science in World War II

The Second World War gave a powerful impetus to the development of science and technology. The greatest discoveries made during and for the war included manufacturing of atomic bombs with the joint efforts of several scientists from different countries that affected the whole of science and technology. Other advancements in science were radar installations, invented in England to identify the German air armada that stimulated further development of electronics. In general, both abovementioned areas in physics helped to start the development of cybernetics.

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The Germans succeeded, though at the end of the war, to begin serial production of aircraft with jet engines. The major discoveries of the war include German rocket V-1 and V-2, which further transformed into boosters of nuclear weapons and spaceships with the efforts of US scientists. During World War II military equipment developed fast enough. All the warring parties were working on new designs with improved combat characteristics. Particularly rapidly in this period developed armored vehicles, and aircraft. Significant changes have also occurred in the artillery, small arms and naval engineering. There were also non-military discoveries. For example, the discovery of penicillin that saved the lives of thousands of wounded soldiers during the war. The world owes it due to the British bacteriologist Alexander Fleming and accidents associated with the disorder in his laboratory. There was a mass production of penicillin during World War II that saved from gangrene and amputation of limbs, tens of thousands of American and allied soldiers.

In sum, science had many breakthroughs during the World War II. It influenced the advancement of spheres of technology not developed before. The major changes were in military equipment, aircraft, nuclear science, communications etc.

Examples of countries


Germany now is a country with many research institutes and powerful R&D base. In World War II, as an aggressor, it aimed at creation of warfare. Later that technology was overtaken by other countries. For example, German engineer Werner von Braun was the father of V-2, or the first ballistic missile in the world called Aggregat. Its development began in 1939, and the first V-2 used for the bombing of England in 1944, when the war was already lost. After that (and before the surrender of Germany) von Braun surrendered to US colleagues; as a result, they became the founders of the American space program.

Other discoveries that changed science were in atomic energy and communications. Thus, atom of Uranium was first split in 1938 by the German physicists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann. Additionally, the German encryption machines "Enigma" had been used with the 20-ies of the XX century, but were widely used since the beginning of the Second World War. It is believed, that Germany had many secret projects. However, the science since World War II was shaped due to known discoveries made in Germany during the war.


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USSR demonstrated fast pace of technology advancements that became the major achievements of world science and engineering. One example was the creation of one of the best tank of the war - Soviet tank "T-34", which at that time had no analogues in the world. Then, for the detection of enemy aircraft people needed much more powerful means. The development of radar technology in the Soviet Union was launched in 1932, and two years later experts of Leningrad Institute of Electrophysics could locate a target that was flying at an altitude of 150 m and 600 m away from the radar. In 1941, the Soviet troops were using aircrafts with radar technology - RUS-1 and RUS-2 with a range of target detection up to 150 km. Work in this area was conducted in other countries of anti-Hitler coalition. Due to the high secrecy it is hard to tell exactly where radar was invented. However, these military developments had a positive impact on the civilian sector: there were effective filters and noise reduction systems and the theory of stable reception became a widely used. Subsequently, the technology found application in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and GLONASS. Later, the science was involved in events of Cold War that further advanced it.

The United States

The United States are now at the forefront of science. The most drastic invention of the World War II was in the US and it was the atomic bomb. The first person who has patented a nuclear bomb, became Leo Szilard in 1934. But the events of the Second World War stimulated people to undertake the development of nuclear weapons in practice. In the United States, there was established the so-called Manhattan Project on September 17, 1943, which involved many prominent scientists-physicists, including refugees from Europe. By the summer of 1945 the Americans managed to build 3 nuclear bombs, two of which were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the third one was tried shortly before.

One of the most important discoveries that made the biggest impact on society was the world's first digital electronic computer built by Professor John Atanasoff and graduate student Clifford Berry at Iowa State University in the period between 1939 and 1942. They introduced a number of innovations in computing, including binary arithmetic system, parallel processing information, memory sharing, and more. Later, computers were used to decipher fascist codes. Therefore, the US concentrated numerous technological innovations that later became widespread all over the world.


In sum, World War II stimulated rival countries to mobilize all resources. That resulted in improvements in science and new discoveries. Mostly they were connected with warfare, but also they were made in sphere of information technology, logistics and medicine. World War II greatly shaped modern science making it more engineering and information-oriented. The inventions made at that time gave a start to many modern technologies. The examples of Germany, USSR, the United States show how world superpowers competed not only in military might but also in scientific progress. World War II is one of the events that changed world's science and technology the most.

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