Academic Science as an Economic Engine
ON 4 OCTOBER 1961, the president of the University of Illinois received a letter from Illinois governor Otto Kerner. In the letter, Governor Kerner asked the flagship institution to study the impact of universities on economic growth, with an eye toward “insur[ing] that Illinois secures a favorable percentage of the highly desirable growth industries that will lead the economy of the future.”1
In response, the university convened a committee that met for the next eighteen months to discuss the subject. But despite the university’s top-ten departments in industrially relevant fields like chemistry, physics, and various kinds of engineering, the committee was somewhat baffled by its mission.2 How, ...