Corporate science education: Westinghouse and the value of science in mid-twentieth century America

Sevan G. Terzian, Leigh Shapiro

This study examines a largely neglected aspect of the history of science popularization in the United States: corporate depictions of the value of science to society. It delineates the Westinghouse Electric Corporation’s portrayals of science to its shareholders, employees and consumers, and schoolchildren and educators during World War Two and the postwar era. Annual reports to shareholders, in-house news publications, publicity records, advertising campaigns, and educational pamphlets distributed to schools reveal the company’s distinct, but complementary, messages for different stakeholders about the importance of science to American society. Collectively, Westinghouse encouraged these audiences to rely on scientists’ expert leadership for their nation’s security and material comforts. In an era of military mobilization, the company was able to claim that industry-led scientific research would fortify the nation and create unbounded prosperity.

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