Post-war science predictions – did they happen? World War II Commemorative Half Dollar Coin

Today, the World War II Commemorative Half Dollar Coin gives a view into the scientific predictions of 70 years ago.

On November 13, 1944, a newspaper article —first of five—provided eleven predictions by Dr. Robert A. Millikan, head of the California Institute of Technology, in pure and applied science after the war.

He claimed that most of the work pre-dated Pearl Harbor and would continue to advance after the war.

His eleven predictions included:


1—A short-wave radio development which cannot be described on account of censorship.

2—Aviation. The war, says Dr. Millikan, brought no new principles, but poured in enormous resources which have profoundly influenced the future of aviation. “It is,” he writes, “primarily the conquest of space by the power machine and the conquest of the ether by radio waves that today are revolutionizing man’s life on earth much as the steam engine revolutionized it a century ago.”

3—Atomic power. Dr. Millikan does not expect atomic power to replace more common sources of energy, either now or even perhaps in thousands of years.”Atomic power,” he says, “is one of the results that cannot be seen through my binoculars because such power cannot be made available in sufficient quantity to be a decisive factor in the world’s power output. Man’s great source of available energy in the past, is now and I think always will be sunlight—bottled up in coal, oil, living plants, waterfalls and winds, or else absorbed directly in solar heaters. When the oil is gone we can make liquid fuel from coal. When the coal is gone (thousands of years hence) sunlight-fuel will cost somewhat more than now, but that is no ground for worry.”

4—Meteorology. The means of forecasting for some weeks ahead has come to be understood in the last half-dozen years. It is hard to overestimate the importance of this advance for the economic life of man, following the war, Dr. Millikan says, when our airships will be traversing all quarters of the globe in great numbers.

5—Guayule. Dr. Millikan thinks oil and the agricultural crops (alcohol) from which our synthetic rubber is made, will be needed for gasoline and food respectively, and for making organic products like plastics. He foresees guayule rubber as perhaps developing into one of the world’s great future industries.


7—Organic solids, such as plastics and rubbers. In both these fields, physicists and chemists have been learning just how atoms and electrons are tied together. The knowledge surely will be used to accelerate products, both light and heavy, to fit man’s needs.

8—Nutrition. No one knows how far nutrition can improve health, happiness and efficiency, but the possibilities are inspiring.

9—Public health. Immunology, water sterilization, infection-destroying drugs and banishing of age-old fears like dying of thirst after shipwreck are heralds of better living.

10—International co-operation. “Many peace loving people have known,” Dr. Millikan says, “and it would be difficult to find anyone who, in the light of Pearl Harbor, does not now know, that it would be just as intelligent to try to eliminate our internal bandits and maintain peace and order within our borders without providing a police force as it is to think of maintaining a peaceful international world without getting the peace-loving nations somehow to join their forces to protect themselves from the attacks of bandit nations.”

11—Elimination of internal corrupting tendencies. “All the foregoing postwar situations depend,” says Dr. Millikan, “upon the hope that, through our decentralized public and private American school systems, our newspapers and magazines, our radios, our forums and other discussion groups, we have developed in these United States 51 percent of reasonably intelligent voters who understand the dangers to our future of centralization. This applies particularly in education with its indoctrinating tendencies so terribly illustrated by the recent history of European countries.”


Seventy years later, how accurate were Dr. Millikan’s predictions?

In light of current events, domestic and international, a couple of his projections need more work.

The World War II Commemorative Half Dollar Coin shows against a background of an old shortwave radio.

World War II Commemorative Half Dollar Coin