Ten years later hevesy extended his chemical experiments to biology, using a radioisotope of lead to trace the movement of lead from soil into bean plants. In 1943, hevesy won the nobel Prize for his work on the use of radioisotopes as tracers. Previously, those seeking to understand life processes of an organism had to extract molecules and structures from dead cells or organisms, and then study those molecules by arduous chemical procedures, or use traceable chemicals that were foreign to the organism being studied but that mimicked. Foreign chemicals could alter the very processes being measured and, in any case, were often as difficult to measure precisely as were normal body constituents. The radioactive tracer-as Our Friend the Atom, a book written. Heinz haber for Walt Disney productions, explained in 1956 to readers of all ages-was an elegant alternative: "making a sample of material mildly radioactive is like putting a bell on a sheep. The shepherd traces the whole flock around by the sound of the bell.
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Despite the publicity surrounding the dial painters, response to the danger remained agonizingly slow. Patent medicines containing radium and radium therapies continued. The tragedy of the radium dial painters and similar cases of patients who took radium nostrums have provided basic data for protection standards for radioactive substances taken into the body. One prominent researcher in the new area of radiation safety was Robley evans. Evans was drawn into the field by the highly publicized death in 1932 of Eben byers, following routine consumption of the nostrum Radiothor. Byers's death spurred evans, then a california institute of Technology physics graduate student, to undertake research that led to a study of the effects on the body of ingesting radium; this study would continue for more than half a century. Evans's study and subsequent studies of the effects of radium treatments provided the anchor in human data for our digital understanding of the effects of radiation within the human body. As the dangers of the imprudent use of x rays and internal radiation became clear, private scientific advisory committees sprang up to develop post voluntary guidelines to promote safety among those working with radiation. When the government did enter the atomic age, it often referred to the guidelines of these private committees as it developed radiation protection standards. In 1913, the hungarian chemist georg von hevesy began to experiment with the use of radioactive forms of elements (radioisotopes) to trace the behavior of the normal, nonradioactive forms of a variety of elements.
By 1924, a new Jersey dentist noticed an unusual rate of deterioration of the jawbone among local plan women. On further investigation he learned that all at one time had jobs painting a radium solution onto watch dials. Further studies revealed that as they painted, they licked their brushes to maintain a sharp point. Doing so, they absorbed radium into their bodies. The radium gradually revealed its presence in jaw deterioration, blood disease, and eventually, a painful, disfiguring deterioration of the jaw. There was no question that radium was the culprit. The immediate outcome was a highly publicized crusade, investigation, lawsuits, and payments to the victims.
With the new method of treatment, doctors began to essay report impressive survival rates for patients with a fruit variety of cancers. Fractionation became, and remains, an accepted approach to cancer treatment. Along with better understanding of radiation's benefits came a better practical appreciation of its dangers. Radiation burns were quickly apparent, but the greater danger took longer to manifest itself. Doctors and researchers were frequently among the victims. Radiation researchers were also slow to take steps to protect themselves from the hidden danger. One journal opened its April 1914 issue by noting that "we have to deplore once more the sacrifice of a radiologist, the victim of his art. Clear and early evidence of tragic results sharpened both expert and public concern.
Henri becquerel, who had been studying phosphorescence, discovered that shadow pictures were also created when wrapped photographic plates were exposed to crystals partly composed of uranium. Could this radioactive property be concentrated further by extracting and purifying some as-yet-unknown component of the uranium crystals? Marie and pierre curie began laborious chemical analyses that led to the isolation of the element polonium, named after Marie's native poland. Continuing their work, they isolated the element radium. To describe these elements' emission of energy, they coined the word radioactivity. As with x rays, popular hopes and fears for natural radioactivity far exceeded the actual applications. One 1905 headline captures it all: "Radium, as a substitute for Gas, Electricity, and as a positive cure for every disease." Following initial enthusiasm that radiation could, by destroying tumors, provide a miracle cure for cancer, the reappearance of irradiated tumors led to discouragement. Despite distressing setbacks, research into the medical uses of radiation persisted. In the 1920s French researchers, performing experiments on animals, discovered that radiation treatments administered in a series of fractionated doses, instead of a single massive dose, could eliminate tumors without causing permanent damage.
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When he turned the tube on, he noticed to his surprise that a glowing spot appeared on a black paper screen coated with fluorescent material that was across the room. Intrigued, he soon determined that invisible but highly penetrating rays were being produced at one end of food the cathode ray tube. The rays could expose photographic plates, leaving shadows of dense objects, such as bone. After about six weeks of experimenting with his discovery, which he called x rays, roentgen sent a summary and several "shadow pictures" to a local scientific society. The society published the report in its regular journal and wisely printed extra copies. News spread rapidly; roentgen sent copies to physicists throughout Europe. One berlin physicist "could not help thinking that I was reading a fairy tale.
Only the actual photograph proved to everyone that this was a fact.". Physicians immediately recognized these rays as a new tool for diagnosis, a window into plan the interior of the body. The useless left arm of German Emperor Wilhelm ii was x-rayed to reveal the cause of his disability, while queen Amelia of Portugal used x rays of several of her court ladies to vividly display the dangers of "tightlacing.". Physicians began to use x rays routinely for examining fractures and locating foreign objects, such as needles swallowed by children or bullets shot into adults. During World War i, more than.1 million wounded soldiers were treated with the help of diagnostic x rays. In 1896, roentgen's insight led to the discovery of natural radioactivity.
In keeping with the tradition of scientific inquiry, these researchers understood that their work should be the subject of vigorous discussion, at least among other scientists in their field. But, as government officials and advisers, they understood that their public statements had to be constrained by cold War national security requirements, and they shared in official concern that public misunderstanding could compromise government programs and their own research. Medical researchers, especially those expert in radiation, were not oblivious to the importance of the special roles they were being asked to play. "never before in history began the 1949 medical text Atomic Medicine, "have the interests of the weaponeers and those who practice the healing arts been so closely related." This volume, edited by captain. Behrens, the head of the navy's new atomic medicine division, was evidently the first treatise on the topic.
It concluded with a chapter. Shields Warren, the first chief of the aec's division of biology and Medicine, who would become a major figure in setting policy for postwar biomedical radiation research. While the atomic bomb was not "of medicine's contriving the book began, it was to physicians "more than to any other profession" that atomic energy had brought a "bewildering array of new problems, brilliant prospects, and inescapable responsibilities.". The text, a prefatory chapter explained, treats "not of high policy, of ethics, of strategy or of international control of nuclear materials, as physicians these matters are not for."3 Yet what many readers of Atomic Medicine could not know in 1949 was that Behrens. At the heart of these discussions lay difficult choices at the intersection of geopolitics, science, and medicine that would have a fundamental impact on the federal government's relationship with the American people. Radiation has existed in nature from the origins of the universe, but was unknown to man until a century ago. Its discovery came by accident. On a friday evening, november 8, 1895, the german physicist Wilhelm roentgen was studying the nature of electrical currents by using a cathode ray tube, a common piece of scientific equipment.
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But these researchers also knew that human experimentation might not readily provide the answers the military needed. As physicians, they had a commitment to prevent disease and heal. At the same time, as government advisers, they were called upon to participate in making decisions to proceed with weapons development and testing programs that they knew could put citizens, soldiers, and workers at risk. As experts they were asked to ensure that the risks would not be excessive. And as researchers they saw these programs as an opportunity for gathering data. As researchers, they were often among the first to volunteer to take hibernation the risks that were unavoidable in such research. But the risks could not always be disclosed to members of the public who were also exposed.
an audience in Fulton, missouri, that an "iron curtain" had descended between Eastern and Western Europe-giving a name to the hostile division of the continent that had existed since the end of World War. By the following year, cold War was the term used to describe this state of affairs between the United States and its allies on the one hand and the soviet bloc on the other. A quick succession of events underscored the scope of this conflict, as well as the stakes involved: In 1948 a soviet blockade precipitated a crisis over Berlin; in 1949, the American nuclear monopoly ended when the soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb; in 1950. The seeming likelihood that atomic bombs would be used again in war, and that American civilians as well as soldiers would be targets, meant that the country had to know as much as it could, as quickly as it could, about the effects of radiation. This need for knowledge put radiation researchers, including physicians, in the middle of new questions of risk and benefit, disclosure and consent. The focus of these questions was, directly and indirectly, an unprecedented public health hazard: nuclear war. In addressing these questions, medical researchers had to define the new roles that they would play. As advisers to the government, radiation researchers were asked to assist military commanders, who called for human experimentation to determine the effects of atomic weapons on their troops.
Radioisotopes, the newly established Atomic Energy commission (AEC) promised, would create new businesses, improve agricultural production, and through "human uses" in medical research, save lives. From its 1947 creation to the 1974 reorganization of atomic energy activities, the aec produced summary radioisotopes that were used in thousands of human radiation experiments conducted at universities, hospitals, and government facilities. This research brought major advances in the understanding of the workings of the human body and the ability of doctors to diagnose, prevent, and treat disease. The growth of radiation research with humans after World War ii was part of the enormous expansion of the entire biomedical research enterprise following the war. Although human experiments had long been part of medicine, there had been relatively few subjects, the research had not been as systematic, and there were far fewer promising interventions than there were in the late 1940s. With so many more human beings as research subjects, and with potentially dangerous new substances involved, certain moral questions in the relationship between the physician-researcher and the human subject-questions that were raised in the nineteenth century-assumed more prominence than ever: What was there to protect. Was the age-old ethical tradition of the doctor-patient relationship, in which the patient was to defer to the doctor's expertise and wisdom, adequate when the doctor was also a researcher and the procedures were experimental?
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One hundred years ago, a half century before the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the discovery of x rays spotlighted the extraordinary promise, and peril, of the atom. From that time until 1942, atomic research was in private hands. The second World War and the manhattan Project, which planned and built the first atomic bombs, transformed a cottage industry of researchers into the largest and one of the most secretive research projects ever undertaken. Scientists who had british once raced to publish their results learned to speak in codes accessible only to those with a "need to know." Indeed, during the war the very existence of the man-made element plutonium was a national secret. After the war's end, the network of radiation researchers, government and military officials, and physicians mobilized for the manhattan Project did not disband. Rather, they began working on government programs to promote both peaceful uses of atomic energy and nuclear weapons development. Having harnessed the atom in secret for war, the federal government turned enthusiastically to providing governmental and nongovernmental researchers, corporations, and farmers with new tools for with the same machinery that produced essential materials for the nation's nuclear weapons.