Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Science History Podcast

Oct 11, 2020

Whistleblowers are admired or vilified. They are saviors of democracy or traitors to their country. They confront those in power and drive the news, and some, such as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, are household names. But one man is their inspiration, the person who made whistleblowing a phenomenon of modern times, and his name is Daniel Ellsberg. Ellsberg was born in 1931 in Chicago and grew up in Detroit. He graduated with honors from Harvard with an AB in economics in 1952, and then studied at the University of Cambridge. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1954-1957, and then returned to Harvard where he completed his PhD in economics in 1962. Ellsberg worked as a strategic analyst at the RAND Corporation beginning in 1958, and then in the Pentagon beginning in 1964 under Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. He worked for the U.S. State Department in South Vietnam for two years, and then returned to the RAND Corporation. At the end of 1969, with help from his colleague Anthony Russo, Ellsberg secretly copied the Pentagon Papers. His illegal dissemination of these papers to newspapers and the subsequent aftermath is the subject of today’s interview, along with his work related to nuclear war planning and the prevention of nuclear war. We discuss this history, and how it relates to the Vietnam War and the downfall of President Nixon, along with many other topics stretching from World War II to the disastrous Trump Administration. Our discussion centers on Ellsberg’s two seminal books, Secrets – A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers and The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. I hope you enjoy this conversation with Ellsberg as much as I did – his wit, his charm, and his deep historical perspective on critical moments of the 20th century. On top of the many interesting things Ellsberg has to say, he also reveals some new information for the very first time. (Photograph of Ellsberg by Christopher Michel