Mullane Literary Associates

Freedom’s Laboratory by Audra Wolfe

Freedom's Laboratory Audra Wolfe

Praise for Audra Wolfe’s Freedom’s Laboratory

An important meditation on the true boundaries and meaning of ‘scientific freedom’ in the titanic battle between the United States and the Soviet Union. Writing with the eye of a journalist and the authority of a scholar, Wolfe delivers a compelling new look behind the curtain of a still shadowy moment in history.

Garrett M. Graff, author of Raven Rock

“Of psy-ops, seismic detection, and other emanations of the Cold War as it was conducted in petri dishes and cyclotrons... A strong contribution to the history of modern science.

Kirkus (starred review)

A thoughtful, thoroughly researched history of how the American government employed science and scientists to improve world opinion of liberal democracy during the Cold War.”

Publishers Weekly

“Cold-war history, Wolfe writes, is not a heroes-and-villains narrative: it must be told in ‘shades of gray.’ The government used scientists’ ideals for its own political reasons. And the scientists, who saw themselves as apolitical, used the government’s political messages and support to question, observe, conclude, write and speak—freely and in accord with their ideals.”


Well-researched and closely argued... One of the common misbeliefs about science is that it is apolitical.... American scientists were often deeply involved in promoting American cultural values to other parts of the world in an effort to defeat the communists at the same game... an excellent study on a topic that deserves more attention.

Library Journal

“Frontally addresses questions of what science is, how it is best done, and how it (and scientists themselves) might be strategically deployed to advance national interests.”

LA Review of Books

“Audra Wolfe’s provocative new book...dives into the fascinating history of why asserting the apolitical nature of science became a political priority during another notably politicized period in America’s past: the Cold War.”


Wolfe has interviewed the surviving actors and dug deep in the archives to trace the turf wars between the US State Department, the CIA and a variety of military intelligence-gathering agencies that had sprung up during and immediately after the war.”

London Review of Books

A wonderful, well-researched book evoking deep questions of science, freedom, and democracy.

Congressman Rush Holt, CEO AAAS

In this fascinating and deeply researched work, Audra Wolfe reveals the role of science in US cultural diplomacy, showing the way the idea that science was politically neutral enabled the pursuit of forms of scientific internationalism that served US Cold War interests. An important contribution.

Mary L. Dudziak, author of War Time: An Idea, Its History, Its Consequences

Marvelously crafted, terse, and sprightly...utilizing new archival material and drawing on a wide and impressive range of sources. One of the first full-length treatments of the relationship of science, American democracy, and foreign policy.”

Ronald E. Doel, Florida State University

About the Author

Audra Wolfe is a writer, editor, and historian whose work focuses on the relationship between science and politics, especially during the Cold War. She speaks widely to both academic and general audiences and her work has been featured in the Atlantic, Washington Post, the Guardian, Slate, the Discovery Channel, Radio Times, Pacific Standard, Physics Today, Motherboard, The Verge, and other media. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle and is also the author of Competing with the Soviets: Science, Technology, and the of State in Cold War America.