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The United States came into being around the Age of Enlightenment (circa 1680 to 1800), a period in which writers and thinkers rejected the superstitions of the past. Instead, they emphasized the powers of reason and unbiased inquiry, especially inquiry into the workings of thenatural world. Enlightenment philosophers envisioned a "republic of science," where ideas would be exchanged freely and useful knowledge would improve the lot of all citizens.
From its emergence as an independent nation, the United States has encouraged science and invention. It has done this by promoting a free flow of ideas, by encouraging the growth of "useful knowledge," and by welcoming creativepeople from all over the world. The bulk of Research and Development funding (64%) comes from the private sector, rather than from taxes.
The United States Constitution itself reflects the desire to encourage scientific creativity. It gives the United States Congress the power "to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors andinventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." This clause formed the basis for the U.S. patent and copyright systems, whereby creator of original, progressive art and technology would get a government granted monopoly, which after a limited period would become free to all citizens, thereby enriching the pub Early North American sciencelic domain.
Science immigrationAmerican political leaders' enthusiasm for knowledge also helped ensure a warm welcome for scientists from other countries. A notable early immigrant was the British chemist Joseph Priestley, who was driven from his homeland because of his dissenting politics. Priestley, who went to the United States in 1794, was the first of thousands of talented scientists who emigrated in search of a free,creative environment.
Other scientists had come to the United States to take part in the nation's rapid growth. Alexander Graham Bell, who arrived from Scotland by way of Canada in 1872, developed and patented the telephone and related inventions. Charles Steinmetz, who came from Germany in 1889, developed new alternating-current electrical systems at General Electric Company, and Vladimir Zworykin,who left Russia in 1919 and later invented a television camera. The Serb Nikola Tesla went to the United States in 1884, where he invented the brushless electrical motor based on rotating magnetic fields.
Into the early 1900s Europe remained the center of science research, notably in England and Germany. However with the rise of the Nazi party in Germany, a huge number of scientists, many of themof Jewish descent, left the country and travelled to the US. One of the first to do so was Albert Einstein in 1933. At his urging, and often with his support, a good percentage of Germany's theoretical physics community, previously the best in the world, left for the US. Enrico Fermi, came from Italy in 1938 and led the work that produced the world's first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.In the post-war era the US was left in a position of unchallenged scientific leadership, being one of the few industrial countries not ravaged by war. Additionally, science and technology were seen to have greatly added to the Allied war victory, and were seen as absolutely crucial in the Cold War era. As a result, the US government became, for the first time, the largest single supporter of basicand applied scientific research. By the mid-1950s the research facilities in the US were second to none, and scientists were drawn to the US for this reason alone. The changing pattern can be seen in the winners of the Nobel Prizes in physics and chemistry. During the first half-century of Nobel Prizes – from 1901 to 1950 – American winners were in a distinct minority in the science categories....