The Jasons: The Secret History of Science’s Postwar Elite

Richard Panek reviews Ann Finkbeiner’s book in Seed Magazine:

ThejasonsHer subject is a collective of top-notch scientists who have been meeting every summer since 1960 to serve as consultants to the US Department of Defense. They don’t like secrecy. They would probably all agree with Finkbeiner’s simple declaration: “Secrecy is antiscience.” But they also believe that transparency sometimes isn’t an option, and they know too well that it can end up doing science more harm than good.

Some information about the Jasons has surfaced in the press over the decades, especially in the aftermath of the publication of the Pentagon Papers, and in the 1980s some of the Jasons participated in an oral history project now archived at the American Institute of Physics. But, until now, no one has written a major book on them. Indeed, much of the work the Jasons did—and do—for the government remains classified, and when Jasons are uncertain about the status of information, they err on the side of secrecy. Finkbeiner herself has conducted dozens of interviews with Jasons past and present. But by her own admission, she has produced “less a respectable history than a series of stories.”

More here.