Chapter

Unstable impressions

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/9780199692118.003.0008
Unstable impressions

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During the Second World War and for a decade after it, secrecy kept nuclear specialists from public view. Popular representations evolved in step with political contexts, from admired ‘atomic scientists’ during the late 1940s to mistrusted and distant scientists during the early Cold War. With the decline of secrecy and the first nuclear power plants came public perceptions of heroic and ingenious engineers during the late 1950s, and seductive popular literature to entertain and inspire the next generation of nuclear experts. But within a decade, nuclear experts were increasingly portrayed as part of secretive and dangerous industries. Their identities were shaped by proxy—often as voiceless participants portrayed by their governments, and buffeted by public criticisms following major accidents such as Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima.

Keywords: popular culture; representations; public identity; atomic scientists; spies; cinema; nuclear history; espionage; fiction; literature; professionalism; recruitment

Chapter.  18626 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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