Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226017808 Published October 2013
E-book $7.00 to $36.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226017945 Published October 2013

Life Atomic

A History of Radioisotopes in Science and Medicine

Angela N. H. Creager

Angela N. H. Creager

512 pages | 35 halftones, 21 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2013
Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226017808 Published October 2013
E-book $7.00 to $36.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226017945 Published 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.
Joanna Radin | Science
“A striking portrait of the emergence of Cold War science. The book contributes to a growing historical literature that has begun to reconfigure our understanding of the period and its enduring legacies. . . . Creager’s deft attention to the ironies that have accompanied efforts to harness the atom is history of science at its best: a crystal clear portrait of just how untidy the impacts of science can be.”
Nature
“The Manhattan Project’s impact reverberated beyond the atomic bomb, reveals Angela Creager in this lucid scientific history. . . . Creager deploys radioisotopes as ‘historical tracers’ to explore shifts in medicine, perceptions of cancer risk, and the porous ‘civilian-military divide.’”
Carla Nappi | New Books in Science, Technology, and Society
“Angela Creager’s deeply researched and elegantly written new book is a must-read account of the history of science in twentieth-century America. . . . Not only is it a historiographically important and meticulously crafted work based on exhaustive research, but it’s also a great set of stories. The pages of Life Atomic are full of guinea pigs, scientific vaudeville, and stories and characters from many different fields of the modern life sciences, expertly weaving them together into a compelling set of arguments.”
B. D. Spiegelberg, Rider University | Choice
“Radioisotopes are a cornerstone of technology, facilitating basic research and augmenting medical treatment. As a biochemist familiar with such isotopes, decorated historian Creager is well qualified to examine the expansion of radioactive power. Her Life Atomic is a strikingly complete narrative of the social and scientific factors sparking such expansion in the peaceful realm. . . . Students and seasoned professionals alike will gain significant insight into the foundations of this central technology, making it a critical resource for academic and professional libraries. Essential.”
Science Direct
"Creager's Life Atomic will serve as a benchmark for outstanding scholarship and as an essential point of reference on the use of radioisotopes in science and medicine for many years to come."
FASEB Journal
"It would be hard to ask for a better history of radioisotopes than Creager's Life Atomic."
M. Susan Lindee, University of Pennsylvania
“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.”

Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
Life Atomic is the first comprehensive history of radioactive tracing, a key research technology without which a science such as molecular biology would not have come into being. Through this technology, the life sciences and medicine came into deep resonance with the atomic Cold War era. Angela N. H. Creager beautifully unfolds this web before our eyes, and does so by making use of a rich variety of archival sources.”

Daniel J. Kevles, Yale University
“Angela N. H. Creager’s book is breathtaking in scope, a lucid, original account of how radioisotopes came to suffuse and, in many ways, transform research in fields ranging from the experimental life sciences to biomedicine and ecology. It evenhandedly reveals the close coupling between their exploitation and the dynamics of the Cold War, illuminating how they served at once the purposes of health and security, pressing against the ethical boundaries of research with human subjects while helping to tie together the laboratory and the clinic. In all, a masterful work of historical scholarship.”
Contents
Preface
Abbreviations

1. Tracers
2. Cyclotrons
3. Reactors
4. Embargo
5. Dividends
6. Sales
7. Pathways
8. Guinea Pigs
9. Beams and Emanations
10. Ecosystems
11. Half-Lives

Bibliography
Index
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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