Basic Research in Europe

Science  01 Aug 1958:
Vol. 128, Issue 3318, pp. 227-235
DOI: 10.1126/science.128.3318.227


Europe, traditionally the breeding ground for basic scientific research until the 1930's, is only now approaching full recovery from the devastating effects of the war. Great Britain has a more stimulating climate for research, a more progressive graduate-school program, and a more flexible professorship structure than any other country of Europe. Germany still has several years to go before the effects of the war will be obliterated. In most northern European countries, the organization and support of academic research ranges from good to excellent, and a stimulating intellectual atmosphere exists. Germany is rapidly contending for the lead in basic research along with England and Sweden, which are now in the forefront. The Netherlands is typified by superb organization, and most of the Scandinavian countries are high in quality if not always in quantity of research. France is characterized by brilliant individual contributions but over-all falls far short of her potential for scientific research. Switzerland, a highly industrialized country, is geared primarily for engineering and does not compete as highly on basic research as might otherwise be expected. Italian research is good in certain areas but is plagued by a number of difficulties that retard progress. Nevertheless, there are encouraging efforts being made in Italy to develop some good scientific programs. In the south of Europe the situation is generally discouraging and will continue to be so, except where a few dedicated, brilliant individuals are making good contributions with the meager resources available.

Europe will continue to be a tremendous scientific manpower reserve for the United States, and, despite accusations of proselyting, the fact remains that in many European countries the employment possibilities are not commensurate with the production rate of scientists and engineers. If the universities of Europe would realign the professional structure of their departmental staffs and extend their graduate curricula they would give far more opportunity to young research scientists and make better use of their facilities. America can indeed be grateful to Europe for a great cultural and academic heritage, and one can sincerely hope that close cooperation in science will take place for many years to come.