From Bond, with love

A new study claims the CIA copied 007's gadget ideas. Science has always found inspiration in fiction

Call it an extreme expression of flattery, or fanboy enthusiasm. New research by a professor at the University of Warwick, Christopher Moran, claims that the US's Central Intelligence Agency, canonised in fiction as the perpetrator of many a shady deal, straight-up lifted some of its gadget ideas from that most famous of literary spies, James Bond, during the Cold War era. Apparently, the close relationship between Bond's creator, Ian Fleming who was once an intelligence operative and the then CIA director, Allen Dulles, manifested itself as a mutual admiration society. Fleming hinted to Dulles that the CIA lacked in "special devices", and Dulles went back to headquarters and directed his staff to replicate as many of Bond's aids as they could. Fleming, meanwhile, became kinder in his descriptions of the CIA's prowess in subsequent Bond novels.

Perhaps owing to the lack of a Q, however, the CIA's success rate in realising Fleming's visions apparently left something to be desired. For every poison-tipped dagger shoe (as sported by Rosa Klebb in From Russia With Love), according to the study, there was a tracking device a la Goldfinger that failed to do its job. The CIA's evident fascination with the tools at the uber-agent's disposal inspired mirth in Soviet contemporaries, who figured the agency must be hard up if it had turned to fiction.

Yet, science has often followed the path imaginative storytellers have laid before it. The inventor of the submarine, the aptly named Simon Lake, was captivated by Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. The design of the cellphone has been credited to Star Trek's communicator. And a NASA physicist, a fan of the protagonist in a sci-fi series of books, realised one of his hero's inventions Thomas A. Swift's Electric Rifle, aka the taser. As another inventor inspired by Verne once said, "Anything that one man can imagine, another man can make real."

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