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Letter in Response to a Telegram on the Problems of Scientists in Government Service.

September 17, 1948

[ Released September 17, 1948. Dated September 16, 1948 ]

Dear Dr. :

I wish to thank you and the seven other scientists for your telegram of September 6, 1948, in which you gave me your views on a matter which has been of increasing concern to me--the maintenance of working conditions under which scientists will be encouraged to engage in Government service.

Your views on this subject seem to me so important and timely that I commented on them at some length in my September 13 address before the opening session of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington. I am sending you herewith a copy of that address since it incorporates my views about the situation which disturbs you.

The Nation must protect itself against espionage, infiltration of foreign agents, and untrustworthiness of governmental personnel, particularly in its atomic energy plants and laboratories. I am determined that we shall protect ourselves effectively, but I am equally determined that we shall maintain our safeguards within the framework of our democratic principles. With this I know you agree.

I have fought to keep the subject of atomic energy out of partisan politics, to preserve it as a trust for the American people. I shall continue to do so to the full extent of my powers as head of the Executive Branch of our Government despite the opposing efforts of persons, however highly placed, who understand neither the significance of atomic energy nor the meaning of genuine national security in a democratic nation. As always, public opinion will decide the merits of this controversy. It is your responsibility as well as mine to see that public opinion is informed as to the real issues and the merits or demerits of the opposing views. I enlist your help in order that this objective may be achieved.

Very sincerely yours,


Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to Dr. Harrison S. Brown, University of Chicago, Dr. Philip M. Morse, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Karl T. Compton, President, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. T. R. Hogness, University of Chicago, Dr. J. C. Warner, Carnegie Institute of Technology, Dr. Harold C. Urey, University of Chicago, Dr. George Pegram, Columbia University, and Dr. Charles C. Lauritsen, California Institute of Technology.

For the President's address before the America Association for the Advancement of Science, see Item 186.

Harry S Truman, Letter in Response to a Telegram on the Problems of Scientists in Government Service. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232805

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