DOE Openness: Human Radiation Experiments: Roadmap to the Project
1the U.S. Government's secret project, launched December 28, 1942 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Manhattan Engineer District, to develop the atomic bomb. Headquartered in Washington, the Manhattan Project was the Office of Scientific Research and Development Section on Uranium and was codenamed S-1 (Section One of the Office of Scientific Research and Development).
5Led by physicist Enrico Fermi, Met Lab researchers had produced the first self-sustained nuclear chain reaction on December 2, 1942. Operating initially at one-half watt, it achieved 200 watts ten days later.
6235U accounts for just 0.7 percent of all natural uranium; it has 143 neutrons in its nucleus, compared with 146 neutrons in the more abundant uranium-238. The slight difference in atomic weight between the 235U and 238U isotopes figured greatly in nuclear physics during the 1930s and 1940s. Uranium-235 could fission with slow neutrons, making a chain reaction possible. What was unknown was whether it could also fission with fast neutrons in a chain-reacting manner, to allow scientists to build an atomic bomb. See F.G. Gosling, The Manhattan Project: Making the Atomic Bomb (DOE/HR-0096), September 1994.
7Chemist Glenn T. Seaborg had identified plutonium in February 1941. "By May he had proven that plutonium-239 was 1.7 times as likely as uranium-235 to fission. This finding made the Fermi-Szilard experiment more important than ever as it suggested the possibility of producing large amounts of the fissionable plutonium in a uranium pile using plentiful uranium-238 and then separating it chemically. Surely this would be less expensive and simpler than building isotope-separation plants." Source: Gosling, ibid.
8established by an executive order June 28, 1941six days after German troops invaded the Soviet Union. The OSRD's director reported directly to the President and could invoke the prestige of the White House when dealing with other Federal agencies. The National Defense Research Committee, at the time headed by Harvard President James Conant, became an advisory body responsible for making research and development recommendations to the OSRD.
12the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers organization set up to develop the atomic bomb under the ultrasecret Manhattan Project. Originally headquartered in New York, it was moved to Washington, DC, and finally to Oak Ridge in the summer of 1943.
14Joseph Hamilton, an M.D., worked at Crocker Laboratory, then the site of a 60-inch cyclotron that he operated to produce radioisotopes in support of research and some medical diagnosis and treatment. Crocker was part of the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, later renamed Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. Hamilton is discussed in several transcripts of this series, notably in the interviews with John Gofman (DOE/EH-0457, June 1995) and Earl Miller (DOE/EH-0474, June 1995). Hamilton spent most of his career at Lawrence Radiation Laboratory before dying prematurely of leukemia brought on, colleagues believe, by occupational exposure to radiation.
15Dr. John Lawrence, brother of Ernest O. Lawrence, was Director of the Division of Medical Physics at the University of California, Berkeley. He operated a clinic at Donner Laboratory, where he treated leukemia and polycythemia vera patients with radioactive phosphorus. For a colleague's recollection of Dr. Lawrence's clinic, see in the interview with Dr. John Gofman (DOE/EH-0457, June 1995), the sections "From Research to Laboratory Production of Plutonium," "Medical Treatments With Radioactive Phosphorus (32P)," "Conflict Between University of California San Francisco and Berkeley," "Heparin and Lipoprotein Research With Human Subjects," and "Radiophosphorus Therapy for Polycythemia Vera."
19any of several cancers of the bone marrow characterized by an abnormal increase of white blood cells in the tissues, resulting in anemia, increased susceptibility to infection, and impaired blood clotting
26Once atomic bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world knew about the United States' atomic capability and there was no longer a need to maintain strict secrecy about the fission research of the previous years.
27Dr. Paul Aebersold established the administrative system for distribution of radioactive isotopes. After working on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Oak Ridge from 1942 to 1946, he served as director of the Atomic Energy Commission's Isotopes Division at Oak Ridge from 1947 to 1957. He retired as the Director of the AEC's Office of Isotopes Development in 1965. Two-and-a-half years later, he committed suicide. For additional information on Dr. Aebersold, see "Safety of the Nuclear Industry" in the interview with Merril Eisenbud (DOE/EH-0456, May 1995); "Remembrances of Personalities" in the interview with Earl Miller (DOE/EH-0474, June 1995); and "Oak Ridge Committees (Isotope Distribution, Human Use, et al.") and "Vanderbilt University Study of Pregnant Women and Iron-59" in the interview with Karl Morgan (DOE/EH-0475, June 1995).
47a millionth of a curie
49a device for detecting the presence and determining the sign of electric charges by means of electrostatic attraction and repulsion, often between two pieces of gold leaf enclosed in a glass-walled chamber
50Dr. Paul Hahn at Vanderbilt University performed research with radioactive iron and pregnant women. See "Vanderbilt University Study of Pregnant Women and Iron-59" in DOE/EH-0475, Human Radiation Studies: Remembering the Early Years; Oral History of Health Physicist Karl Z. Morgan, Ph.D. (June 1995).
54In June 1994, the ex-wife of actor and former football player and sports commentator, O.J. Simpson, and a visitor to her home were murdered in Los Angeles, CA. Mr. Simpson was charged with both murders and placed on trial. DNA from blood samples taken at the crime scene and provided by Mr. Simpson were presented as critical evidence in the trial. At this writing (June 1995) no verdict has been rendered and the trial continues.
55deoxyribonucleic acida type of nucleic acid, particularly found in cell nuclei, that is the basis for heredity in many organisms. DNA molecules are constructed of a double helix held together by hydrogen bonds.
58Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies, established in 1946 by the Manhattan Engineer District and operated under a Manhattan Project (and later Atomic Energy Commission) contract. The responsibility of ORINS was to train physicians and researchers in the safe handling of radioisotopes and to develop isotope applications in medicine. Today, the educational and training functions of ORINS are carried out by its successor, Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE).
59From 1945 through 1949, Vanderbilt University Hospital conducted studies on iron absorption in pregnant women. Participants in the study were part of a larger nutrition survey conducted by the hospital. In all, 829 normal, healthy, pregnant women ingested radioactive iron-59 in an amount ranging from 1.8 to 120 milligrams. The iron-59 was administered at various times in the gestation period ranging from fewer than 10 to more than 35 weeks. The study showed that iron uptake is related to both dosage level and gestation period. For a more complete discussion and a list of references, see "OT-11: Iron Metabolism in Human Pregnancy as Studied with Iron-59," in Human Radiation Experiments Associated with the U.S. Department of Energy and Its Predecessors (210+ pages), DOE/EH-0491, July 1995.
61Gould Andrews directed the total-body-irradiation facilities at Oak Ridge; Clarence Lushbaugh directed the Low-Exposure-Rate Total Body Irradiator (LETBI) facility. For contrasting views on the medical ethics of those studies, see DOE/EH-0475, Human Radiation Studies: Remembering the Early Years; Oral History of Health Physicist Karl Z. Morgan, Ph.D. (June 1995) and DOE/EH-0453, Human Radiation Studies: Remembering the Early Years; Oral History of Pathologist Clarence Lushbaugh, M.D. (April 1995).