Chapter

The atomic nursery

Sean F. Johnston

in The Neutron's Children

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199692118
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191740732 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199692118.003.0004
The atomic nursery

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If the war gestated atomic energy specialists, then the decade after it saw their birth and early development in special environments. They did not thrive unaided: the new experts were nurtured with copious resources, cosseted in secure environments, and isolated from contaminants. This period of incubation shaped their development and mature identity. National laboratories grew from the American and Canadian wartime projects, and were created anew in Britain to serve post-war goals. Each embodied a distinct complement of engineering and scientific competences, industrial support, and national aims. And each served to segregate the growing knowledge in a regime of high security. Secrecy both helped and hindered the new specialists, providing freedom to explore atomic energy but sublimating their working and professional identities.

Keywords: national laboratories; US Atomic Energy Commission; Harwell; Oak Ridge; Argonne; nuclear history; secrecy; national security; classification; Atomic Energy Act

Chapter.  17042 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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