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Life Atomic

A History of Radioisotopes in Science and Medicine

Angela N. H. Creager



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University of Chicago Press
02 October 2013
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.
By:   Angela N. H. Creager
Imprint:   University of Chicago Press
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 235mm,  Width: 166mm,  Spine: 34mm
Weight:   810g
ISBN:   9780226017808
ISBN 10:   022601780X
Series:   Synthesis (CHUP)
Pages:   512
Publication Date:   02 October 2013
Audience:   College/higher education ,  A / AS level ,  Further / Higher Education
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Angela N. H. Creager is the Philip and Beulah Rollins Professor of History 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.

Reviews for Life Atomic: A History of Radioisotopes in Science and Medicine

A fascinating portrait of the use and meaning of radioisotopes in twentieth-century science and medicine, Angela N. H. Creager's Life Atomic is serious, high-quality scholarship that contributes to our understanding of science over the last century. This long-awaited volume justifies the wait. (M. Susan Lindee, University of Pennsylvania)

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