Life Atomic: A History Of Radioisotopes In Science And Medicine

Paperback | October 7, 2015

byAngela N. H. Creager

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After World War II, the US Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) began mass-producing radioisotopes, sending out nearly 64,000 shipments of radioactive materials to scientists and physicians by 1955. Even as the atomic bomb became the focus of Cold War anxiety, radioisotopes represented the government’s efforts to harness the power of the atom for peace—advancing medicine, domestic energy, and foreign relations.
           
In Life Atomic, Angela N. H. Creager tells the story of how these radioisotopes, which were simultaneously scientific tools and political icons, transformed biomedicine and ecology. Government-produced radioisotopes provided physicians with new tools for diagnosis and therapy, specifically cancer therapy, and enabled biologists to trace molecular transformations. Yet the government’s attempt to present radioisotopes as marvelous dividends of the atomic age was undercut in the 1950s by the fallout debates, as scientists and citizens recognized the hazards of low-level radiation. Creager reveals that growing consciousness of the danger of radioactivity did not reduce the demand for radioisotopes at hospitals and laboratories, but it did change their popular representation from a therapeutic agent to an environmental poison. She then demonstrates how, by the late twentieth century, public fear of radioactivity overshadowed any appreciation of the positive consequences of the AEC’s provision of radioisotopes for research and medicine.

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After World War II, the US Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) began mass-producing radioisotopes, sending out nearly 64,000 shipments of radioactive materials to scientists and physicians by 1955. Even as the atomic bomb became the focus of Cold War anxiety, radioisotopes represented the government’s efforts to harness the power of the ato...

Angela N. H. Creager is the Thomas M. Siebel Professor in the History of Science at Princeton University. She is the author of The Life of a Virus and coeditor of Feminism in Twentieth-Century Science, Technology, and Medicine, both published by the University of Chicago Press. She lives in Princeton, NJ.

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Kobo ebook|Aug 13 2007

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:512 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.2 inPublished:October 7, 2015Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022632396X

ISBN - 13:9780226323961

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Preface
Abbreviations

1. Tracers
2. Cyclotrons
3. Reactors
4. Embargo
5. Dividends
6. Sales
7. Pathways
8. Guinea Pigs
9. Beams and Emanations
10. Ecosystems
11. Half-Lives

Bibliography
Index

Editorial Reviews

"In Creager’s hands, we see the full scope of biomedical research from the perspective of the radioisotopes that flowed out of nuclear production facilities and through an intricate network of laboratories, environments and living bodies. Life Atomic is not a call for more histories of tracers – it is a call for a new kind of history, one framed less in terms drawn from without than in terms unearthed from within. Though Creager is too humble to admit it, her book suggests a new methodology for the history of science and medicine, if not history itself. If we adopt it, historical scholarship might become more unified and more pluralistic at once. Creager has given us more than a new history. Life Atomic models a new way to write such histories. It should be read by anyone interested in understanding the past on its own terms."