Technology and Society: Graduate Student Years

As the end of World War II approached, Fred Bernard was one of many who began looking to the post-war future and pondering their options.  As noted earlier, Fred Bernard ultimately decided to return to the University of California at Berkeley, his alma mater, for graduate studies in electrical engineering.  His return was delayed by several months in order to wrap up and close out his wartime radar work at the MIT Radiation Laboratory.  In early 1946, Fred Bernard and his wife and infant son made the trip back to the West Coast on a DC-3 twin-propeller commercial aircraft that made several refueling stops between Boston MA and San Francisco CA. See Fred's correspondence with the Radiation Laboratory here.

Graduate Work

Fred Bernard had originally planned to start his graduate studies in the spring semester 1946, but found that he was too depleted from almost five years of radar work at MIT under wartime condition, as he explains in this letter.  Thus he began his graduate studies in the fall semester 1946.  He carried out his earlier decision to focus his academic work on electrical engineering and the physical sciences, and to pursue his interest in and passion for sociology and the larger implications of technology outside of his formal curriculum.

True to form, Fred Bernard included two tracks, the formal engineering curriculum track, and the informal sociology and political track, in his study plan submitted to his UC Berkeley faculty advisors, which was accepted with a few procedural adjustments.  So far as the record shows, his faculty advisors seemed to be comfortable with this approach.  The engineering faculty appeared to be happy so long as Fred Bernard performed well in his course work and his research.  What Fred Bernard did outside of class was his own business, and needless to say many academics place considerable value on their own freedom of expression and movement and so are sympathetic to students who wish to do likewise.

Indeed, Fred Bernard was awarded the prestigious Hilp Fellowship that, along with teaching and research assistantships, helped substantially pay for his graduate studies.  The engineering faculty expressed pride in Fred Bernard’s achievements and promise.  Throughout his studies, he worked part time at the Cal Berkeley Radiation Laboratory, and was able to continue some of his work started at MIT.

Social Involvement

In parallel with his graduate class work, Fred Bernard continued his practice of engaging in extensive study, research, and activism on the social implications of science and technology.  He continued to participate in varied organizations with similar interests.  And he extended his range of interests to include participation in progressive political and labor organizations.

One such organization was the United World Federalists (UWF), which advocated a federal world government to address and resolve global problems through peaceful means rather than warfare.  In an April 6, 1948 letter to the UWF Berkeley Chapter Chairman, Fred Bernard provided a thoughtful, detailed analysis of the World Federalist policy positions.  He approached this review as a supporter in principle of the concept of world government, but he pointed out that such a proposal might not be well received by those who may be suspicious of the motives of the U.S. government and industry.  Fred Bernard was thinking in particular about anti-Communist statements made by various U.S. leaders, and whether one could expect the Soviet Union to take such proposals seriously in such a hostile environment.  He made several suggestions for increasing the U.S.-U.S.S.R. dialog and mutual understanding at the levels of individual citizens through formal diplomatic channels. 

Fred Bernard continued his involvement with the newly formed Society for Religious Culture, established in January 1945 at the Union Theological Seminary, New York City.  The intent of the Society for Religious Culture was to provide a forum for discussion of the interactions between religion, philosophy, culture, and science, and applications of religious doctrines and beliefs to the lives of individuals and larger social units.  Fred Bernard continued to provide input to the Boston-Cambridge Branch, with which he had been involved prior to moving back to Berkeley.

During his graduate studies, Fred Bernard also participated in, contributed to, or was otherwise involved with the World Federation of Scientific Workers, National Council of the Arts, Sciences, and Professions,  World Events Committee with social and political commentary by Scott Nearing, Council for Civic Unity working for civil rights and liberties in San Francisco, Berkeley YMCA Peace Discussion Group, Unitarian Church of Berkeley Channing Discussion Club (as noted earlier), and the California Labor School, among others.

The California Labor School was co-sponsored by various organized labor groups, and was intended to be a forum and educational vehicle for “students, cultural workers, and the general public interested in the application of philosophic and cultural theory to labor, and the basic problems of daily living.”  The program of a typical conference included topics such as “Philosophies on Trial,” “The Artist Faces the World,” “The Scientist Faces the World,” “Socialism and Ethics,” “The Working Class Faces the World,” “Arnold Toynbee’s Theory of History,” and “Man and Nature,” among others. To put this in context, the post-war late 1940s was a time when the Cold War was beginning, and the perceived struggle between Capitalism, Socialism, and Communism was intensifying.  The U.S. organized labor movement was caught in the middle, and had to find ways to promote dialog and advocate for labor interests without being labeled as Socialist or Communist.  As the political situation evolved in the U.S., organized labor, artists, scientists, religious leaders, and other progressive and creative elements of U.S. society were vulnerable to criticism and intimidation, by those attempting to label progressives as Socialist or Communist.  Fred Bernard tried hard to stay in dialog with progressive forces but without aligning with Socialist or Communist politics.

Fred Bernard’s participation in progressive activities in the San Francisco Bay Area, including UC Berkeley and the California Labor School, brought him into contact with Alden Bryant, a fellow UC Berkeley student and someone closely affiliated with the U.S. labor movement.  Thus began on or about August 23, 1948, a lifetime friendship and professional collaboration between Alden and Fred Bernard.

In the fall 1948 U.S. national election cycle, Fred Bernard identified with and supported the candidacy of Henry Wallace, the Progressive Party nominee for President of the United States.  Fred Bernard was involved in organizing the group Scientists for Wallace, in collaboration with the National Council of the Arts, Sciences, and Professions. In connection with this political organizing effort, Fred Bernard advocated a paper titled “New Tools for an Abundant Life: A Progressive Program to Secure for the People the Benefits of Science and Technology.”  This paper (circa September 1948) discussed the many opportunities for the use of science and technology in the pursuit of progressive values, and concluded that Henry Wallace was the candidate best suited to carry out this program.

Completing His Ph.D.

Fred Bernard received his M.S. degree in electrical engineering in 1948, and completed all requirements for his Ph.D. in electrical engineering in 1952.  This included his dissertation research on “Coupling Between Waveguides and Cavity Resonators for Large Power Output.”  He had successfully navigated the academic waters and received his doctorate degree from one of the top academic electrical engineering departments in the country, all the while maintaining his “informal” program of involvement with social and political studies and activities.

For scheduling reasons, Fred Bernard was actually awarded the Ph.D. degree in May 1953, by which time he had already accepted a job and was hard at work at the IBM Corporation’s new laboratory in San Jose, CA, 50 miles to the south of Berkeley.