Mice and the Reactor: The "Genetics Experiment" in 1950s Britain

Journal of the History of Biology 39 (4):707 - 735 (2006)
Abstract
The postwar investments by several governments into the development of atomic energy for military and peaceful uses fuelled the fears not only of the exposure to acute doses of radiation as could be expected from nuclear accidents or atomic warfare but also of the long-term effects of low-dose exposure to radiation. Following similar studies pursued under the aegis of the Manhattan Project in the United States, the "genetics experiment" discussed by scientists and government officials in Britain soon after the war, consisted in large-scale low-dose irradiation experiments of laboratory animals to assess the effects of such exposures on humans. The essay deals with the history of that project and its impact on postwar genetics. It argues that radiobiological concerns driven by atomic politics lay at the heart of much genetics research after the war and that the atomic links are crucial to understand how genetics became an overriding concern in the late 20th century.
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