Article ID: CBB001252690

The Lab and the Land: Overcoming the Arctic in Cold War Alaska (2013)


The militarization of Alaska during and after World War II created an extraordinary set of new facilities. But it also reshaped the imaginative role of Alaska as a hostile environment, where an antagonistic form of nature could be defeated with the appropriate combination of technology and training. One of the crucial sites for this reformulation was the Arctic Aeromedical Laboratory, based at Ladd Air Force Base in Fairbanks. In the first two decades of the Cold War, its employees conducted numerous experiments on acclimatization and survival. The laboratory is now best known for an infamous set of tests involving the application of radioactive tracers to indigenous Alaskans---experiments publicized by post--Cold War panels established to evaluate the tragic history of atomic-era human subject research. But little else has been written about the laboratory's relationship with the populations and landscapes that it targeted for study. This essay presents the laboratory as critical to Alaska's history and the history of the Cold War sciences. A consideration of the laboratory's various projects also reveals a consistent fascination with race. Alaskan Natives were enrolled in experiments because their bodies were understood to hold clues to the mysteries of northern nature. A scientific solution would aid American military campaigns not only in Alaska, but in cold climates everywhere.


Description On the Arctic Aeromedical Laboratory, which conducted experiments on acclimatization and survival.

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Authors & Contributors
Neuman, Robert
Auzenne, Valliere R.
Jolles, Adam
Kohlhoff, Dean W.
Hiroshi, Ichikawa
Marchand, Nicolas
Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences
Historia Scientiarum: International Journal of the History of Science Society of Japan
Scientia Canadensis: Journal of the History of Canadian Science, Technology, and Medicine
History of Physics Newsletter
Journal of Historical Geography
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
University of Washington Press
Reaktion Books
Washington State University Press
Florida State University
Oregon State University Press
World War II
Science and war; science and the military
Cold War
Nuclear weapons; atomic weapons
Military technology
Einstein, Albert
Lewis, Julian Herman
Abbott, Wallace Calvin
Levi, Giuseppe
Conant, James Bryant
United States
Alaska (U.S.)
Arctic regions
Soviet Union
20th century
20th century, late
20th century, early
Universiteit Leiden
Kamerlingh Onnes Laboratory
Hanford Nuclear Site (Washington)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
Lincoln Laboratory
University of Chicago

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