Sarah Bridger

Associate Professor


  • U.S. History
  • Cold War
  • Labor
  • History of Science

Contact Information


  • Ph.D., Columbia University
  • M.Phil., M.A., Columbia University
  • B.A., Brown University

Research and Teaching Interests

My teaching and research interests include 20th-century U.S. history; Cold War politics, culture, and foreign relations; the 1960s and 1970s; labor in the 19th and 20th centuries; and the history of postwar science. I am particularly interested in competing visions of politics, economics, and ethics in times of social upheaval.

My book, Scientists at War: The Ethics of Cold War Weapons Research (Harvard University Press, 2015), examines ethical debates among scientists involved in military advising and research from Sputnik to Star Wars. Scientists at War won the Society for U.S. Intellectual History’s 2016 annual book award and, as a dissertation, the 2012 Allan Nevins Prize of the Society of American Historians.

I’ve also discussed some of the book’s themes in two recent essays written for popular outlets: “The Best Intentions,” an examination of what happened to the Manhattan Project generation of physicists during the Vietnam War, on, and “The History Lesson the American Psychological Association Forgot,” a commentary on the ethics policies of professional societies, at the History News Network.

My current research explores shifting ideas in the United States about what counts as science and who counts as a scientist. Tentatively titled Science in the Seventies: Battling for the Soul of a Profession, from the Vietnam War to Star Wars, this work examines the political, economic, and ideological battles over science in the 1970s, including changes in defense contracting and privatization, theoretical critiques of scientific practice, the activism of women in STEM fields, and the rise of citizen science. 

During the 2017-2018 academic year, I will be on sabbatical leave at the New York Public Library's Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers.

Fellowships and Awards

Recent Conference Presentations and Invited Talks

  • "STEM Feminists, Social Constructivists, and Well-Meaning War Criminals: Redefining American Science in the 1970s," invited talk at UC Santa Barbara, 20 April 2017
  • "Disgruntled Women Scientists in the 1970s," workshop paper presented to the Working Group on the History of the Physical Sciences, Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine, 17 November 2016
  • Keynote address: “Bell Curves, Context-Stripping, and Well-Meaning War Criminals: The Individual and the Collective in 1970s American Science,” at the 12th Annual Graduate History Symposium, University of Toronto, 6 May 2016
  • Roundtable (organizer and chair): “Recent Scholarship and Future Directions in the History of Cold War Science” at the Annual Meeting of the History of Science Society (San Francisco, CA), 17 November, 2015.
  • “Conversations with Cal Poly Authors,” invited public discussion of Scientists at War: The Ethics of Cold War Weapons Research with Professor Shelley Hurt, Robert E. Kennedy Library, Cal Poly, 4 November 2015.
  • “Disgruntled New England Women Scientists of the 1970s” at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Society for U.S. Intellectual History (Washington, D.C.), 18 October, 2015.
  • “The American Physical Society and the Ethics of Cold War Science,” invited talk at the 2015 April Meeting of the American Physical Society (Baltimore, MD), 14 April 2015.
  • “Science at War: Anti-Militarism and the Critique of Professional Neutrality in the Origins of SftP” in the plenary panel at the NSF-funded conference “Science for the People: The 1970s and Today” (Amherst, MA), 12 April 2014. (See a video of the panel.)
  • “Vietnam Radicals and Star Wars Critics: Scientists, Activism, and the Problem of Professional Neutrality in the Late Cold War” at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the History of Science Society (Boston, MA), 22 November 2013.
  • “Access and Expertise without Influence: Jason Scientists and the War in Vietnam” at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Society for U.S. Intellectual History (Irvine, CA), 1 November 2013.
  • “American Scientists and the War in Vietnam: Ethical Obligations and the Limits of Influence,” invited “Soiree” talk (organizer: David Hafemeister), Steynberg Gallery (San Luis Obispo, CA), 11 November 2012.
  • “’The Area Should Be Treated as a Laboratory’: Scientists, Controversy, and the Vietnam War” at the 2011 Annual Meeting of the History of Science Society (Cleveland, OH), 4 November 2011.


  • HIST 202 United States History Since 1865
  • HIST 207 Freedom and Equality in American History
  • HIST 322 Modern America
  • HIST 326 US Foreign Relations Since 1898
  • HIST 413 Turbulent Decades: The United States in the 1960s and 1970s
  • HIST 440 Cold War Science and Society
  • HIST 460-461 Senior Project
  • HIST 505 Cold War Science and Society (graduate)
  • HIST 505 US Labor History (graduate)
  • HIST 512 Supervised Reading for Comprehensive Exams (graduate)

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