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Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Department of History
The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) emerged in the 1960s and quickly attracted much attention from both scientists and the public. The breadth of terms included in SETI discourse provides an excellent lens view the effects of context and the multiplicity of reactions on the part of scientists to ongoing contentious debates over science’s relationship to society and the federal government. This thesis presents three case studies of the development of SETI during the 1960s. The first case study analyses the origins of SETI as a scientific research project and speaks to the relationship between science and technology. The second case study examines the transition of some scientists interested in SETI to public advocates for the undertaking of a large-scale SETI project. These discussions spoke of their moral responsibility to the effects of their research and of the larger trajectory of the space science program. The third case study examines the 1971 CETI conference and elucidates the difficulties of conducting interdisciplinary research. SETI discourse was far more complex during the 1960s than any subsequent period and spoke to the broader societal discourses.
Smith, Sierra E., ""A cosmic Rorschach test": The origins and development of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, 1959-1971" (2012). Masters Theses. 334.