Alexander Hollaender’s Postwar Vision for Biology: Oak Ridge and Beyond

Journal of the History of Biology 39 (4):685-706 (2006)
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Abstract

Experimental radiobiology represented a long-standing priority for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, but organizational issues initially impeded the laboratory progress of this government-funded work: who would direct such interdisciplinary investigations and how? And should the AEC support basic research or only mission-oriented projects? Alexander Hollaender's vision for biology in the post-war world guided AEC initiatives at Oak Ridge, where he created and presided over the Division of Biology for nearly two decades. Hollaender's scheme, at once entrepreneurial and system-oriented, made good use of the unique resources provided by the AEC and by Oak Ridge's national laboratory setting, while at the same time it restructured wartime research practices to better reflect biologists' own priorities. Because Hollaender offered many academic experimental biologists a way of envisioning military-related patronage as integral - rather than antithetical - to their professional identities, his work provides an important lens through which to examine the early post-war intellectual and institutional development of radiobiology.

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