Don Leggett
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Give me a laboratory and I will win you the war
Governing science in the Royal Navy
in Scientific governance in Britain, 1914–79
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The first decades of the twentieth century were marked by the establishment of a number of new institutions and means of governing scientific research in Britain. In July 1915 the Board of Invention and Research (BIR) was formed by the Admiralty to focus the ‘scientific and inventive powers of the country’ on war work. The formation of a dedicated scientific board, directly connected to the naval service, could be read as part of this trend towards greater state patronage of research and the growing institution of government science, but by September 1917 the decision had been was made to abolish the BIR. In its brief existence the BIR’s culture of governance shifted through its internal transformations, interactions with existing Admiralty technical departments and connections with an expanding state infrastructure for invention and research. This chapter follows these shifts to show that there was nothing inevitable about how invention and research were institutionalised and governed in the opening decades of the twentieth century.

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