A History of Neglect: Negotiating the Role of Safety in the Manhattan Project, 1939-1945

Katherine Zwicker

Abstract


This paper examines the role of safety within the Manhattan Project, the Allied effort to build an atomic bomb during World War II. As an integral component of the American national defense strategy, the atomic bomb project was afforded tremendous resources and incorporated the expertise of the country's top scientists, engineers, government officials, and military personnel. As a result, considerable Scientific and technological achievement was realized The Manhattan Project marked an important point in the ascendancy of science and technology throughout the twentieth century. However, the largely political and military goals of the project had consequences. Insufficient knowledge was gained regarding radiation hazards as a result of a preoccupation with speedy and secretive nuclear weapons development and the difficulty scientists had conducting health-related research. This paper argues that safety concerns were secondary to speed and secrecy in the search for the world's first atomic bomb.

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