COLLOQUIUM: Atomic Tracings: The History of Radioisotopes in Science and Medicine
After detonating the first nuclear weapons in Japan, to devastating effects, the U.S. government turned swiftly to promoting the peaceable dividends of atomic energy. The first such benefit took the form of radioactive isotopes, produced in a former Manhattan Project reactor and distributed to civilian purchasers beginning in 1946. The consequences of this new supply of radioisotopes for science and medicine were profound and extensive, as illustrated by developments in biochemistry, nuclear medicine, and ecology. In each of these areas, one can see how government policy and infrastructure integral to the Cold War shaped scientific opportunities and knowledge. Routine practices of radiolabeling and radiotracing remained in place long after the positive political valence of radioisotopes dimmed in the 1960s and 1970s, in the wake of the debates over radioactive contamination of the environment from atomic weapons tests and nuclear waste. The talk will conclude with a consideration of how radioisotope usage served to prompt the postwar federal regulation of scientific research, which expanded considerably in the last decades of the twentieth century.
The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory 2019-2020 Colloquium Committee is comprised of the following people. Please feel free to contact them by e-mail regarding any possible speakers or topics for future colloquia.
- Carol Ann Austin 609-243-2484
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