To Honor Scientists Who Served and Supported the Military

Kin Leung

Kin Leung
Nov 9, 2022 12:00:00 PM

US FlagMy wife’s family has a rich and decorated military history, with her grandfathers, in particular, having served honorably in major combat. When I was in graduate school, I had a few acquaintances who had served in the Navy or Marine Corps prior to using their military college benefit to go into the sciences and eventually earn their doctorates. The military and those who serve are a key cog in our society to help protect the many freedoms we enjoy, and while they’re not as well-known as, for example, athletes like Ted Williams who served in combat, scientists have contributed greatly to efforts in war and in peace.



Celebrating Veterans Day


WWI NewspaperThe national holiday, Veterans Day, coincides with the end of active combat in the First World War. The year after, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day on November 11, which has since been celebrated on November 11 no matter what day of the week it lands on to remember those who served. Later, Armistice Day was permanently changed to Veterans Day, and continues to be observed as a national holiday.


The observation of Veterans Day not only recalls the significance of November 11, 1918, as the end of one of the bloodiest conflicts in human history, but also highlights the bravery and accomplishments of veterans. It is one of the most patriotic days of the year and celebrates our veterans for their sacrifices in the name of the greater good.


Doing Science After Combat


Like my graduate school colleagues, many veterans served in the military (and even combat) before they were honorably discharged and entered a career in the sciences. One article I found was nowhere near comprehensive, but did highlight a few more recognizable soldier-scientists, including Walter Reed, for whom our national military medical center is still named.


One of the hooks for military recruiters is the opportunity to get money for college, which many personnel like my classmates took advantage of. One hopes that veteran support (which includes tuition for higher education, medical benefits and support, and social support) continues.


Scientists and Warfare


One of the coolest exhibits in the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is the U-505 submarine area, which not only contains the famous German U-boat, but also a great interactive teaching tool about the ENIGMA machine. Scientists on both sides of the conflict invented numerous technologies to turn the tide of World War II, a veritable list of “who’s who” that included many Americans and German defectors, several of whom went on to win Nobel Prizes for their research.


EinsteinThe most famous of those names might be familiar to you—Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi, Niels Bohr, for example. Even Glenn Seaborg, whom I had the fortune to meet before he passed away while I was an undergrad. Of course, with warfare, there needed to be innovations in weaponry, including the atomic bomb headed by Robert Oppenheimer’s Manhattan Project, which went on to feed further research into making even more destructive weapons. Being often more perceptive than their elected leaders, scientists including Einstein argued for nuclear disarmament and continue to do so today even as various nations continue to blow stuff up to “test” their new bombs.




Although the saying goes, “If you want peace, prepare for war,” our collective efforts should always be to preserve peace. Thanks to our veterans and the many scientists who supported their military campaigns, we can be secure in our freedoms and the push for global unity.



Tags: Science History, Veterans Day, Peace, Einstein

Kin Leung

Kin Leung

Kin Leung is the Scientific Content Marketing Manager at ABclonal. Kin has a background in immunology and cancer biology. He has enjoyed working with many different technologies and living systems, and is always eager to learn more about the natural world. Kin enjoys talking science and sports, including baseball and the Chicago Cubs.