Making the invisible engineer visible: DuPont and the recognition of nuclear expertise

Johnston, S.F. (2011) Making the invisible engineer visible: DuPont and the recognition of nuclear expertise. Technology and Culture, 52(3), pp. 548-573.

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Between 1942 and the late 1950s, atomic piles (nuclear chain-reactors) were industrialized, initially to generate plutonium for the first atomic weapons and later to serve as copious sources of neutrons, radioisotopes and electrical power. These facilities entrained a new breed of engineering specialist adept at designing, operating and maintaining them. From the beginning, large companies supplied the engineering labor for this new technology, and played an important role in defining the nature of their nuclear expertise. In the USA, the most influential company of the period was DuPont, which assumed responsibility for the first plutonium production reactors at Oak Ridge TN and Hanford WA between 1942-6, and of the postwar production facilities at Savannah River SC 1950-87. This paper explores the transition of authority from so-called “atomic scientists” to nuclear engineers at these sites, and the role played by DuPont in consolidating this new technical profession.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:Nuclear engineer, Du Pont, national laboratory, profession, reactor technology, Met Lab, Manhattan Project, Savannah River, Hanford, Oak Ridge, General Electric, Westinghouse
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Johnston, Professor Sean
Authors: Johnston, S.F.
Subjects:T Technology > T Technology (General)
T Technology > TK Electrical engineering. Electronics Nuclear engineering
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
F History United States, Canada, Latin America > F001 United States local history
D History General and Old World > D History (General)
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > C Auxiliary sciences of history (General)
Q Science > QC Physics
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
U Military Science > U Military Science (General)
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Interdisciplinary Studies
Journal Name:Technology and Culture
ISSN (Online):1097-3729
Published Online:01 January 2011

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
445351The nuclear engineer - shaping a professionSean JohnstonEconomic & Social Research Council (ESRC)ES/E018483/1Interdisciplinary Studies