Science in the twentieth century has relied on enormous financial investment for its survival. Once departed from an amateur pursuit, industry, charity and government have ploughed huge resources into it, supplying the professional occupation of science with a complex of institutional facilities – full-time posts, research laboratories, students and journals. Financial support, however, has always been a limited resource and has gone most generously to those areas of research which appear particularly novel, innovative or promising, that is to the ‘leading edges’. To secure the funds necessary to maintain their life-style, then, scientists have had to make their activities scientifically and economically attractive to the funding bodies. Historians and sociologists of twentieth-century science have tended to follow these priorities and have concentrated on the leading edges. We have studied at length the acquisition of new knowledge through research, the creation of the institutional complex and the furtherance of science through innovation, specialty and discipline formation, part and parcel of which is the gathering of the necessary funds. The competition for funds has been investigated in analyses of controversy between competing groups within a research area, which has provided important models for the social and conceptual development of science. This emphasis, however, may have missed a great deal of what happens in science.