The Ascent of Sputnik: A Reminiscence

Editor’s note: October 4 marks the 30th anniversary of the launching of Sputnik 1 by the Soviet Union. In this issue of THE SCIENTIST we look back to the beginning of the space age with a reminiscence by Joshua Lederberg. Other prominent scientists and public figures recalled the ascent of Sputnik and reflected on present-day Soviet- U.S. competition in space during interviews with freelance writer Neil McA leer. Excerpts from seven interviews appear on p. 12. When Sputnik was launched

Joshua Lederberg
Oct 4, 1987

Editor’s note: October 4 marks the 30th anniversary of the launching of Sputnik 1 by the Soviet Union. In this issue of THE SCIENTIST we look back to the beginning of the space age with a reminiscence by Joshua Lederberg. Other prominent scientists and public figures recalled the ascent of Sputnik and reflected on present-day Soviet- U.S. competition in space during interviews with freelance writer Neil McA leer. Excerpts from seven interviews appear on p. 12.

When Sputnik was launched on October 4, 1957, I was in Melbourne, Australia, as a Fuibright scholar from the University of Wisconsin, visiting MacFarlane Burnet’s laboratory. In the Southern hemisphere, we could promptly observe Sputnik with our own eyes. Of course, the event prompted intense excitement about its scientific and technological, as well as its military-political implications. On November 6, 1957, I arrived in Calcutta to visit J.B.S. Haldane. That day was the occasion...