John L. Heilbron: "Bancroft Centennial Symposium: Big Science and Big Bridges"
Here's a shorter lecture by John on the humble origins of big science: "Bancroft Centennial Symposium: Big Science and Big Bridges." As usual, he manages to make physics, its context, and its history intelligible, interesting, and humorous.
This story happens to be the tale of the Lawrence Berkeley Lab and its development of the cyclotron, which started in 1931 with Ernest Orlando Lawrence and the so-called 'Rad-Lab' ten years before government began funding scientific work on a large scale, so Lawrence had to collect 'junk' and turn to philanthropists and private investors to support the increasingly expensive experiments conducted with his found art of smashing atoms -- more of a perfomance art, actually, of which he was the due champ and received a Nobel Prize in 1939. I refer, of course, to his use of gigantic magnets thrown away by Federal Telegraph Company and scavanged by Lawrence to assist in accelerating atoms to the speeds requisite for the dirty job of obliterating fellow atoms . . . or at least smashing them to smithereens.
This lecture and the stuff dealt with bring back memories of my history-of-science years even though my forte was history of biology -- not that my own forte was especially fortified or particularly formidable -- but I was constantly hearing John and the others talk about the history of that lab. I suppose that I'm being somewhat self-indulgent these past few days, strolling down memory lane. Still, if you're interested in this sort of thing, i.e., physics and its history, give the video a look-see. It's only about 25 entertaining minutes, time well spent if you like likable lectures on technical stuff.
John, by the way, also has some intriguing things to say, in his conclusion, about big science's bureaucratic tendency to limit scientific discovery, given the risk-averse character of government-funded research.