Thesis ID: CBB898540521

Irradiating Eden: The El Verde Experiment and the Atomic Energy Commission's nuclear prospecting in Latin America, 1954-1970 (2016)


With this thesis, I connect the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission’s large-scale ecological research in the El Verde rainforest in Puerto Rico during the 1960s to an experimental nuclear weapons program known as Project Plowshare. I show how the AEC masked a bureaucratic investigation at El Verde as a strictly academic pursuit. I argue that the AEC and its contracted scientists at the Puerto Rico Nuclear Center, led by the pioneering systems ecologist, Howard T. Odum, conducted perverse experiments using highly radioactive sources and isotopes to damage and monitor tropical biota, and predict how radioactive elements would percolate through waterways and into food webs in rainforests following nuclear detonations. I contend that El Verde was a continuation of research linked to the Plowshare program—a program contested in the United States—which American nuclear prospectors expanded into Puerto Rico and Latin America as they planned a nuclear-blasted transoceanic canal in Panama.

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Book Alexander von Schwerin; (2015)
Strahlenforschung. Bio- und Risikopolitik der DFG, 1920–1970 (/isis/citation/CBB851567278/)

Book Phalkey, Jahnavi; (2013)
Atomic State: Big Science in Twentieth-Century India (/isis/citation/CBB001213742/)

Article Rothschild, Rachel; (2013)
Environmental Awareness in the Atomic Age: Radioecologists and Nuclear Technology (/isis/citation/CBB001213269/)

Thesis Jolly, J. Christopher; (2004)
Thresholds of Uncertainty: Radiation and Responsibility in the Fallout Controversy (/isis/citation/CBB001561963/)

Book Hamblin, Jacob Darwin; (2008)
Poison in the Well: Radioactive Waste in the Oceans at the Dawn of the Nuclear Age (/isis/citation/CBB000774692/)

Article Lisa Ruth Rand; (January 2019)
Falling Cosmos: Nuclear Reentry and the Environmental History of Earth Orbit (/isis/citation/CBB208189412/)

Article Shun'ya, Yoshimi; (2012)
Radioactive Rain and the American Umbrella (/isis/citation/CBB001202144/)

Article Masco, Joseph; (2004)
Mutant ecologies: Radioactive life in post-cold war New Mexico (/isis/citation/CBB001180560/)

Book Toshihiro Higuchi; (2020)
Political Fallout: Nuclear Weapons Testing and the Making of a Global Environmental Crisis (/isis/citation/CBB347886249/)

Book Robert A. Jacobs; (2022)
Nuclear Bodies: The Global Hibakusha (/isis/citation/CBB596228330/)

Authors & Contributors
Higuchi, Toshihiro
Rand, Lisa Ruth
Hideyuki Hirakawa
Candela, Andrea
Verhoff, Gwendolyn
Shun'ya, Yoshimi
Historia Scientiarum: International Journal of the History of Science Society of Japan
Social Science History
Osiris: A Research Journal Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
North Carolina Historical Review
Journal of Asian Studies
Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences
Washington University in St. Louis
Oregon State University
Montana State University
Yale University Press
Stanford University Press
Rutgers University Press
Nuclear and radioactive waste
Pollution, radioactive
Nuclear testing
Nuclear weapons; atomic weapons
Science and politics
Knapp, Harold
Time Periods
20th century, late
21st century
20th century
United States
Soviet Union
Nevada (U.S.)
Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; Partial Test Ban Treaty; Limited Test Ban Treaty (1963)
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
United States. Atomic Energy Commission
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment