The Neutron's Children: Nuclear Engineers and the Shaping of Identity

Johnston, S.F. (2012) The Neutron's Children: Nuclear Engineers and the Shaping of Identity. Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK. ISBN 9780199692118 (doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199692118.001.0001)

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This book follows nuclear engineers, specialists in a field described by early administrators as a ‘strange journey through Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘What Buck Rogers reads about when he reads’. Their hidden origins trace back to the discovery of the neutron and the cascade of knowledge and applications released by the chain reaction. Unlike the atomic bomb which motivated their creation, nuclear specialists in the USA, Britain and Canada did not burst into visibility at the end of the Second World War. Cosseted and cloistered by their governments, they worked in secrecy for a further decade to explore applications of atomic energy at a handful of national labs. The identities of these unusually voiceless experts – forming a uniquely state-managed discipline – were shaped in the context of pre-war nuclear physics, wartime industrial management, postwar politics and utopian energy programmes. Even after their eventual emergence at universities and companies, nuclear workers carried the enduring legacy of their origins. Their shared experiences shaped not only their identities, but our collective memories of the nuclear age. And as illustrated by the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident seven decades after the Manhattan project began, they are still seen conflictingly as selfless heroes or as mistrusted guardians of an unbottled and malevolent genie. Based on extensive archival research and interviews with participants, this bottom-up account tracks these shadowy specialists and how they evolved to influence late twentieth-century science, industry and culture.

Item Type:Books
Keywords:History, nuclear engineering, engineers, scientists, atomic energy, nuclear power, disciplines, professions, occupations
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Johnston, Professor Sean
Authors: Johnston, S.F.
Subjects:D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
E History America > E11 America (General)
Q Science > QC Physics
Q Science > QD Chemistry
T Technology > TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)
T Technology > TK Electrical engineering. Electronics Nuclear engineering
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Interdisciplinary Studies
Publisher:Oxford University Press

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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