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The days of intricate test-ban negotiations, Khrushchev’s visit to Camp David, the cranberry controversy, the impending rupture with Cuba, the downed U-2, and the failed Summit in Paris come to life again in this highly personal diary kept by the Ukrainian-born chemist who was President Eisenhower’s science advisor. Richly detailed, candid, and very human, the memoir offers an inside view of White House infighting, policy disputes, and bureaucratic conflict, and of the role an eminent scientist came to play in shaping presidential decisions. It records the interaction between the scientific community and the defense establishment during a critical period in the making of United States foreign policy. Throughout, Kistiakowsky’s growing admiration for the President becomes clear.
George Kistiakowsky became President Eisenhower’s special assistant for science and technology in July 1959, and he served until John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. He was the second person to hold this office, which was created by Eisenhower and would be abolished under Nixon. After considerable pressure from the scientific community, President Ford reinstated the position on the White House staff in August 1976.
From the day he took office, Kistiakowsky kept a private journal of his activities and conversations. This diary, edited and annotated, is a readable and informative chronicle; it adds substantially to our knowledge of day-to-day operations in the office of the President. It records the progress of a citizen-expert who struggled to serve the President and the country with objective information and dispassionate analysis—but who also had his own strong ideas and passionate beliefs.
With an introduction by Charles S. Maier and supplemented by Kistiakowsky’s own reminiscences and commentary, this book can be read either as a primary document or as entertaining background; it is a unique contribution to contemporary history.