Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center

History of Atomic Energy Collection, 1896-1991

Content Description

(Written by Glenn T. Seaborg)

This collection of more than 3,000 publications covers the beginning of nuclear science, its development throughout the following 100 years, and its many practical applications for war and peace. Many of the publications are autographed by the authors, which adds to the human interest.

The early publications by the founders of nuclear science -- Henri Becquerel, Niels Bohr, Irene Curie, Marie Curie, Pierre Curie, Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi, Kasimir Fajans, Otto Hahn, George Hevesy, Frederic Joliot, Ernest Lawrence, Lise Meitner, Wilhelm Röentgen, Ernest Rutherford, Frederick Soddy, J. J. Thompson -- are a priceless resource. These appear in Series I (Early Physics) of the 15-section catalogue.

I was interested to see that Series II (From the Manhattan Project Through the Aftermath of the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) includes the paper by Arthur Wahl and me in which "we suggest (the name) 'plutonium' (after Pluto, the second planet beyond Uranus) for element 94."

The ten sections which follow cover such areas as the military uses of atomic energy, the Oppenheimer security hearings, the struggle to establish international control of atomic energy, and the development of manifold applications of civilian atomic energy. In addition to the use of atomic energy to produce electricity for civilian use, peaceful uses include the application of radioactive isotopes to medical diagnosis and treatment, and as tools in industry, agriculture, and the arts and humanities. The final three sections will be of particular interest to the social historian. Series 13 catalogues ethical, philosophical and psychosocial discussions, and Series 15 offers fictional and artistic treatments of "The Atomic Age," while Series 14 focuses particularly on the "human interest" through biographies.

This collection of documents is a unique resource, valuable to anyone interested in the history of nuclear science and in its many practical applications.

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