Aside from an obscure 1974 study sponsored by DARPA itself, The Department of Mad Scientists: How DARPA Is Remaking Our World, from the Internet to Artificial Limbs, is the first book to tell the inside story of America’s innovation agency.
Created by the administration of President Eisenhower in 1958 in response to the Soviet Union’s launch of the first satellite, DARPA’s continuing mission is to get the drop on America’s enemies with the latest in sensors, computing power, exotic weapons, robots, access to outer space, and more.
A funny thing happened along the way, though. DARPA ended up funding some of the most amazingly useful technologies of all time—including the computer network on which this page resides.
—William Saletan, The New York Times
Often imitated, never duplicated, DARPA today funds work on bionic arms that move, sense, and wear like native limbs, cars that can drive themselves through traffic, air-breathing engines capable of flight six times the speed of sound, ultra-efficient solar panels, jet fuel made from vegetable oil, and other technologies that, if successful, could improve the lives of millions of people and the health of the planet.
How has DARPA maintained its edge for more than 50 years on a budget that is 1/2 of 1 percent of the overall defense budget? What factors contribute to its success? How can other organizations capture some of the DARPA magic for themselves? The Department of Mad Scientists provides valuable insights.