Angela N. H. Creager, « Atomic Tracings: Radioisotopes in Science and Medicine », séminaire HSHI, séance du 4 décembre


La prochaine séance du séminaire Histoire des sciences, histoire de l’innovation (Université Paris Sorbonne, UPMC, LabEx EHNE) se tiendra le jeudi 4 décembre à 17h00 à l’Institut des sciences de la communication (ISCC), salle de conférence, 20 rue Berbier-du-Mets à Paris 13° (M° Gobelins).

Nous aurons le plaisir d’accueillir

Angela N. H. Creager ,

Philip and Beulah Rollins Professor of History, Princeton University


Atomic Tracings: Radioisotopes in Science and Medicine



The U.S. government developed atomic energy for peacetime after World War II in the form of radioactive isotopes, produced in a former Manhattan Project reactor and distributed to civilian purchasers. These radioisotopes provided physicians with new tools of diagnosis and therapy and equipped biologists to trace molecular transformations from metabolic pathways to ecosystems. This chapter juxtaposes postwar developments in biochemistry, nuclear medicine, and ecology growing out of this new supply of radioisotopes. In each of these areas, one can see how government policy and infrastructure integral to the Cold War decisively shaped scientific opportunities and knowledge. Routine practices of radiolabeling and radiotracing remained in place long after the positive political valence of radioisotopes dimmed in the 1960s and 1970s, in the wake of the debates over radioactive contamination of the environment from atomic weapons tests and nuclear waste.


Angela N. H. Creager is the Philip and Beulah Rollins Professor of History at Princeton University, where she teaches history of science. She is the author of The Life of a Virus: Tobacco Mosaic Virus as an Experimental Model, 1930–1965 and Life Atomic: A History of Radioisotopes in Science and Medicine, both published by the University of Chicago Press. She is also the coeditor of three volumes, most recently Science without Laws from Duke University Press. Her recent research focuses on the history of environmental health and regulation. She is currently President of the History of Science Society.

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