Properties of science
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Properties of science book
In 1956, the Westinghouse Electric Corporation opened a sprawling new research centre alongside the recently opened Penn-Lincoln Parkway in Churchill, a suburb 15 minutes to the east of Pittsburgh. Westinghouse modelled the lab on the Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey, and trumpeted it as a place removed from the immediate demands of the firm where scientists could pursue blue-sky research. In fact, scientists rarely pursued such work and instead largely focussed on research that was directly connected to the needs of Westinghouse’s manufacturing divisions. So why did Westinghouse go to such great expense to create a place that was intended to guarantee the autonomy of scientists? This paper argues that one key reason the firm did so was to fit within existing property relations in Pittsburgh’s exclusive eastern suburbs. By emphasizing the laboratory as a site of blue-sky research, Westinghouse was able to conform to a suburban community that prohibited all commercial and industrial land uses. Meanwhile Churchill modified its existing zoning code to welcome industrial research, which most residents agreed would be a highly esteemed neighbour. Using this example, this paper explores how suburban property relations and Cold-War science shaped each other.