The 1950s was a decade of unprecedented economic and population growth for the United States, The baby boom that had begun in the years immediately following World War II continued well into the decade. From 1948 to 1953 more children were born than in the previous thirty years, and in 1954 the country experienced the largest one-year population gain in history. Some experts worried about society's ability to handle the added burden of so many new Americans. But each new American was also a new consumer, and most people thought optimistically that the high birthrate would help to support the expanding economy.
It may not have been clear at the time, but American society, which seemed so stable and prosperous on the surface, was being urged toward revolution in the wake of World War II by a brash generation of artists using bold works to test their ideas. As rebels always are, these young rebels were bitterly opposed by their elders, But as the 1950s progressed, the rebellion seemed to grow increasingly determined, and it became more threatening than it had ever been before.The cold war set the tone for the arts of the decade. Americans enjoyed their image as the most prosperous people in the most powerful nation in the world. Yet they dreaded the centralization of power and the impersonality of life in the atomic age.
Great strides were made in American science during the 1950s. Major inventions and discoveries were almost daily events, and previously ignored technology improved upon and made commercially applicable. The field of science seemed to change overnight. Previously, the scientist generally worked alone or, perhaps, with a student assistant or two. He (most scientists were men in the 1950s) worked with minimal equipment and funding to find answers to questions that interested him. The questions changed over time as scientific interests -and budgets-changed. During the 1950s people turned to scientists to solve their problems more often than ever before.