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The Third Atomic Bombing of Japan

Seminar Center for Global Humanities Lecture/Seminar Series

M. Susan Lindee

M. Susan Lindee

Janice and Julian Bers Professor of the History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania

The Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF) is a bi-national, U.S. and Japanese scientific agency in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. Originally called the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (1947-1975), the RERF has carried out epidemiological research tracking the biomedical effects of radiation at Hiroshima and Nagasaki for almost 70 years. RERF scientists also played a key role in the assessment of populations exposed  at Chernobyl and are now embarking on studies of workers at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. This lecture will reflect on nuclear weapons and nuclear power, their biomedical risks, and their intertwined political histories. Industrial interests in Japan and the United States sought to draw a sharp line between the risks of nuclear war and the risks of nuclear power, but the work of the RERF (which became the basis of worker protection standards for the industry), and the activism of atomic bomb survivors themselves has drawn these two nuclear domains together.  This is so particularly in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, Japan's "third atomic bombing." RERF is therefore a critical node in a complex global network of scientific institutions that adjudicate radiation risk and proclaim when it is present and when absent. Its history, Dr. Lindee suggests, can illuminate some key properties of modern disasters and the sciences that engage with them.


Professor Susan Lindee is a historian at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA, who studies historical and contemporary questions raised by human and medical genetics, science in the Cold War, nuclear weapons and radiation genetics. She is the Janice and Julian Bers Professor of the History of Science. Her books include Suffering Made Real (1994), The DNA Mystique (1995) with the late sociologist Dorothy Nelkin, and Moments of Truth in Genetic Medicine (2005). Lindee also has been involved in collaborations with anthropologists, including her work with Alan Goodman and Deborah Heath, on the 2003 edited volume Genetic Nature/Culture: Anthropology and Science Beyond the Two Culture Divide, and her April 2012 co-edited special issue of Current Anthropology, “The Biological Anthropology of Living Human Populations: World Histories, National Styles and International Networks.” In fall 2014 she was a Visiting Professor at Hiroshima University. Lindee is a Guggenheim Fellow, a Weiler Fellow, and the winner of a Burroughs Wellcome Fund 40th Anniversary Award and the Schuman Prize of the History of Science Society.

Assigned Reading

M. Susan Lindee, Suffering Made Real: American Science and the Survivors at Hiroshima (University of Chicago Press, 1997)


A reception will be held at 5:00 pm at the UNE Art Gallery


Center for Global Humanities


(207) 221-4435

The Third Atomic Bombing of Japan Poster
6:00 PM
WCHP Lecture Hall in Parker Pavilion

Portland Campus

Free and open to the public