Atomic Doctors

December 2, 2020
Atomic Doctors

An unflinching examination of the moral and professionaldilemmas faced by physicians who took part in the ManhattanProject.After his father died, James L. Nolan, Jr., took possession of abox of private family materials. To his surprise, the small secretarchive contained a treasure trove of information about hisgrandfather's role as a doctor in the Manhattan Project. Dr. Nolan,it turned out, had been a significant figure. A talented ob-gynradiologist, he cared for the scientists on the project, organizedsafety and evacuation plans for the Trinity test at Alamogordo,escorted the "Little Boy" bomb from Los Alamos to the PacificIslands, and was one of the first Americans to enter the irradiatedruins of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.Participation on the project challenged Dr. Nolan's instincts asa healer. He and his medical colleagues were often conflicted, tornbetween their duty and desire to win the war and their oaths toprotect life. Atomic Doctors follows these physicians asthey sought to maximize the health and safety of those exposed tonuclear radiation, all the while serving leaders determined tominimize delays and maintain secrecy. Called upon both to guardagainst the harmful effects of radiation and to downplay itshazards, doctors struggled with the ethics of ending the deadliestof all wars using the most lethal of all weapons. Their work becamea very human drama of ideals, co-optation, and complicity.A vital and vivid account of a largely unknown chapter in atomichistory, Atomic Doctors is a profound meditation on themoral dilemmas that ordinary people face in extraordinarytimes.