The Hanford Laboratories and the growth of environmental research in the Pacific Northwest, 1943 to 1965 Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/nk322g63x

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  • The scientific endeavors that took place at Hanford Engineer Works, beginning in World War II and continuing thereafter, are often overlooked in the literature on the Manhattan Project, the Atomic Energy Commission, and in regional histories. To historians of science, Hanford is described as an industrial facility that illustrates the perceived differences between academic scientists on the one hand and industrial scientists and engineers on the other. To historians of the West such as Gerald Nash, Richard White, and Patricia Limerick, Hanford has functioned as an example of the West's transformation during in World War II, the role of science in this transformation, and the recurring impacts of industrialization on the western landscape. This thesis describes the establishment and gradual expansion of a multi-disciplinary research program at Hanford whose purpose was to assess and manage the biological and environmental effects of plutonium production. By drawing attention to biological research, an area in which Hanford scientists gained distinction by the mid 1950s, this study explains the relative obscurity of Hanford's scientific research in relation to the prominent, physics-dominated national laboratories of the Atomic Energy Commission. By the mid 1960s, with growing public concern over radiation exposure and changes in the government's funding patterns for science, Hanford's ecologically relevant research provided a recognizable and valuable identity for the newly independent, regionally-based research laboratory. With funding shifts favoring the biological and environmental sciences in the latter half of the twentieth-century, Hanford scientists were well prepared to take advantage of expanding opportunities to carve out a permanent niche on the border of American science.
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