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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Fall 2008

T C 325 • Topics in the Arts and Sciences: American Technology and Victory in the Cold War

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
43820 TTh
2:00 PM-3:30 PM
WRW 401E

Course Description

A good case can be made that one of the vital factors in bringing about the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the communist ideology on which it was based, was the consistent superiority of American technology for the forty-six year duration of the "Cold War". It is the purpose of this course to examine this proposition. Many of these technologies had their origins during World War II when they were developed on a crash basis because of the exigencies of war. The institutions that developed these technologies were then converted to new work of a military nature that turned out to be important during the Cold War. Thus, the course will start with a discussion of the situation as World War II ended in the summer of 1945.

A number of examples of American technological developments will be presented, and the effect that they had on Soviet-American relations will be evaluated. One of the first was the Berlin Airlift, which broke the Soviet blockade of the city in 1949. We astonished the Soviets with our technological capability to supply a city of three million people with aircraft alone. It was the first "peaceful victory" in the Cold War. Next was the use of U-2 aircraft to gather credible information about the deployment of Soviet missiles in Cuba. The high-resolution U-2 pictures permitted President Kennedy to persuade a skeptical public that the Soviets were indeed doing just that. The development of the technology for defense against ballistic missiles was another important element. President Reagan's refusal to trade away the work on missile defense at the Reikjavik summit meeting with President Gorbachev in 1986 was one of the critical turning points in U.S.-Soviet relations during the Cold War. The meeting persuaded Gorbachev that we were serious, and some believe he lost his nerve at that point. Gorbachev himself has actually said so. The continuing work on cryptology and other information systems were also a decisive element in winning the Cold War. This work was an extension of what was started in World War II and profoundly influenced computer development. Perhaps even more important, the unclassified work on information technology, transistor radios, Xerox machines, FAX machines and VCR technology made it impossible for the Soviets to operate the closed society that the communist philosophy demanded. The lectures will be presented roughly in chronological order of events during the Cold War. There will also be some discussions of how the legacy of the Cold War affects current events.

Grading Policy

The course consists of twenty-four lecture sessions supported by video presentations. There will be a mid-term and a required term paper. The students' grades will be determined by their performance on these assignments.


Course packet of articles about the Cold War
Supplemental readings for term paper (guided by the professor)

About the Professor

Dr. Hans Mark specializes in the study of spacecraft and aircraft design, electromagnetic rail guns, and national defense policy. He earned his Ph.D. in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1954. Dr. Mark served as director of the NASA-Ames Research Center (1969-77) and Secretary of the Air Force (1979-81). While working for the U.S. Air Force, he created a space command center in Colorado which is still operational. During this time he was also the director of the National Reconnaissance Office, where he was responsible for managing the U.S. satellite reconnaissance program. In 1981, Mark was appointed deputy administrator of NASA. During his three years in the position, he supervised the first 14 space shuttle flights and beginnings of the United States involvement in the International Space Station program. He served as chancellor of The University of Texas System from 1984 to 1992 and on the faculty of the Cockrell School of Engineering since 1988. After working at the university for several years, Mark was named director of Defense Research and Engineering for the Department of Defense in 1998. He previously taught at Boston University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of California at Berkeley, and Stanford University. Dr. Mark returned to teaching and researching at the University of Texas in 2001. He has published more than 180 technical reports and authored or edited eight books. Dr. Mark is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He is the recipient of the 1999 Joe J. King Engineering Achievement Award and the 1999 George E. Haddaway Medal for Achievement in Aviation.

From the professor

I participated personally in many of the events that will be covered in class. My hope is that I will be able to communicate some of the excitement of this period in our history, some of the risks we had to take and finally the satisfaction of living long enough to see us prevail over our adversaries.


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