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Science, Security and the Cold War: An Australian Perspective

Abstract from Phillip Deery's article in War and Society, Vol 17, Number 1, 1999

One afternoon, in late July 1949, the permanent head of the Australian Department of Defence, chairman of the Defence Committee and member of the Council of Defence, Sir Frederic Shedden, met with his British counterparts at the Ministry of Defence in Storey's gate, London. A short distance away, in the Strand, another Australian, a postgraduate student of nuclear physics, Thomas Kaiser, was participating in a small and ineffectual political protest outside Australia House. Neither Kaiser nor Shedden was aware of the other, and the reasons for each being in London that afternoon were not related. Yet very soon the career of the young scientist would become entangled with the concerns of the powerful bureaucrat. This article will attempt to unravel this unusual connection by analysing the so-called 'Kaiser Case'. In doing so, it will open another window onto Australia's troubled defence relationship with the United States and great Britain during the early Cold War.