Thesis ID: CBB001561387

A Cultural History of Radiation and Radioactivity in the United States, 1895--1945 (2008)


Lavine, Matthew (Author)

University of Wisconsin at Madison
Staley, Richard A.

Publication Date: 2008
Edition Details: Advisor: Staley, Richard A.
Physical Details: 356 pp.
Language: English

The discovery of radiation and radioactivity at the close of the nineteenth century provoked extraordinary and enduring reactions from the American public. Fueled as much by direct physical experience of these novel energies as by breathless newspaper reportage, the lay public quickly amassed a broad and contradictory welter of impressions about them. They were variously understood to be natural or artificial, unpredictable and yet bound by the laws of nature, healthful or harmful, and rare or ubiquitous. Moreover, these understandings were constantly in conversation with one another, as the initial fascination evinced by the public as a whole was carefully nurtured and shaped by an array of interested actors ranging from scientific societies to fiction authors. Such an expansive engagement with so subtle and elusive a physical phenomenon was unprecedented, and was the result of the diversity of ways in which the public came into contact with them, voluntarily and otherwise. This dissertation characterizes that emergent nuclear culture by examining the principal sites at which it was created: rhetorically, in newspapers, science fiction magazines, textbooks and popularizations, and experientially, via medical encounters and consumer culture. It establishes the nature and scope of the interpretive tools, both factual and connotative, that Americans had access to with respect to these novel energies, and explores the channels through which information about them flowed. By elaborating upon the diverse library of impressions, built up over half a century, that the nonscientist public could draw upon, it provides a point of reference against which to measure Americans' experience of radiation and radioactivity in the post-Hiroshima world.


Description Cited in Diss. Abstr. Int. A 69/05 (2008). Pub. no. AAT 3314335.

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Authors & Contributors
Johnston, Barbara Rose
Hessler, Martina
Price, David H.
Dawson, Susan E.
Liebow, Edward
Levin, Joshua
British Journal for the History of Science
Science and Education
Technology and Culture
Chemical Heritage
Nuncius: Annali di Storia della Scienza
History of the Human Sciences
School for Advanced Research Press
Cambridge University Press
Palgrave Macmillan
Claremont Graduate University
State University of New York at Buffalo
Science and society
Atomic energy; nuclear power
Public understanding of science
Hamilton, Walton Hale
Curie, Pierre
Curie, Marie Sklodowska
Roosevelt, Franklin D.
Hogben, Lancelot Thomas
Crowther, James Gerald
Time Periods
20th century, early
19th century
20th century, late
20th century
21st century
United States
Great Britain
Jesuits (Society of Jesus)
General Electric
Tennessee Valley Authority

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