Radiation Protection: A Global Challenge with a Rich History



Zeit/Ort n.V.

  • Mi 10:15-11:45, Raum KH 1.013 ICS


Radiation Protection focuses on one of the major global challenges today—how to protect humans and the environment from ionized radiation—from a historical point of view. The course explores the kind of organizational structures, material resources, knowledge systems, and diplomatic practices that allowed the social and political shaping of the field. Focusing mainly on the period before World War II, historians have highlighted scientists' struggles (a) to define the appropriate unit of radiation; (b) to invent suitable measurement devices; (c) to detect and to agree on the effects of radiation on biological systems; and (d) to identify the acceptable risk of radiation exposure. The scientific controversies that emerged in these processes reveal the powerful role of those scientific institutions responsible for standards for radiation safety. In addition, the development of radium therapy in the US during this early period draws attention to the role of the radium industry and market in shaping notions of health and orthodox medical practices. After the World War II the mass quantities and new types of radiation and radioactive materials as well as nuclear medical technologies, forced new approaches in the field and created opportunities for the international regulation of radiation risks. Undoubtedly, the international regulatory system that took shape at the end of the 1950s was a result of the geopolitical division of the Cold War. The course will explore this rich history in detail bringing front and center social and gender issues. At the same time, it will question the role of international organizations in regulating radiation today. It is a highly interdisciplinary course bringing perspectives from History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Science and Technology Studies, and Gender Science Studies. It is open to students from all faculties and across the university. Students are expected to read very closely the assignments, participate in the discussions, and produce a short research paper or multimedia project at the end of the seminar. The option of a take home exam is also possible.

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Erwartete Teilnehmerzahl: 30