Diagnosing the Nation: Scientists, Mothers, and Physicians Confront Nuclear Testing and Civil Defense Through Medical Activism, 1958–1963

Peace & Change, Volume 46, Issue 1, Page 35-51, January 2021.


The Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963, which banned atmospheric nuclear testing, is one of the most powerful treaties regarding nuclear weapons ever passed. This legislation was pushed forward by the Kennedy Administration following the publicization of scientific and medical tests that warned readers about the introduction of man‐made radioisotopes into the bones and bodies of American infants. These scientific and medical tests were performed, publicized, and analyzed by a combination of scientists, concerned mothers, and physicians who respectively organized between 1958 and 1961. Each of these “medical activist” groups worked together during the early Cold War and was able to influence the Kennedy administration, who encouraged their involvement and even partially credited it with the garnishing of public support for the treaty. This multi‐constitutent response to the dangers of radioisotopes offers a window into the nexus of Cold War era concerns over national security, scientific and technological advances, and public health.

This was originally published on Wiley: Peace & Change: Table of Contents.