tv Lectures in History CSPAN August 29, 2016 9:11pm-10:24pm EDT
costing a lot of money. that's neither here nor there. i think the story is illustrative of the stakes. he is both a person who -- refugees understand this. in many respects they understand america and what makes america, if you will, the nation of refugees better than many americans do and has an idealism about this place that would be refreshing if people listened to it. the story of refugee policy is complicated. we haven't wrapped it all up. we'll come back to it. it links nation and humane interests at every turn. whether we listen to advocates like miguel is another story, but if we did, i think the discussion would change radically. thank you very much. we will have more debate about this relationship between humanitarian and nationalism. thanks very much. thanks for your questions.
>> american history tv airs on c-span 3 every weekend telling the american story through events, interviews, and visits to historic locations. this month american history tv is in primetime to introduce you to programs you could see every weekend on c-span 3. our features include lectures in history, visits to college classrooms across the country, to hear lectures from top history professors. american artifacts takes a look at the treasures at u.s. historic sites, museums, and archives. real america revealing the 20th century through archival films and newsreels. the civil war where you hear about the people who shape the civil war in reconstruction, and the presidency focuses on u.s. presidents and first ladies to learn about their politics, policies, and legacies. all this month in primetime and every weekend on american history tv on c-span 3. all week in primetime it's american history tv where we'll feature programs from our
lectures in history series in which we take you into college classrooms across the country. each night leads off with a debut of a new class, and tonight it's sexuality in america. we start at 8:00 eastern with a lecture on the origins of the gay rights movement. that's followed by a discussion on sexual freedom in the 1950s. gays and lesbians in early 20th century america, and then race and sex education in if the mid 20th century. that's tuesday on american history tv here on c-span 3. with the house and senate returning from their summer break next week, on thursday at 8:00 p.m. eastern we'll preview four key issues facing congress this fall. federal funding to combat the zika virus. >> women in america today want to make sure that they have the ability to not get pregnant. why? because mosquitos ravage pregnant women. >> but today they turn down the very money that they argued for
last may, and they decided to gamble with the lives of children like this. >> the annual defense policy and programs billing. >> all of these votes are very vital to the future of this nation. in a time of turmoil, in a time of the greatest number of refugees since the end of world war ii. >> gun violence legislation and criminal justice reform. >> every member of this body, every republican and every democrat wants to see less gun violence. >> we must continue to work the work of non-violence and demand an end to senseless killing everywhere. >> and the resolution for congress to impeach irs commissioner john -- >> house resolution 828 impeaching john andrew koskinen, commissioner of the internal revenue service, for high crimes and misdemeanors. >> we'll review the expected
congressional debate with susan ferrechio with "the washington examiner." join us thursday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span for congress this fall. we're going to talk today about the radiation experiments, skps by the radiation experiments, i mean experiments that were done in and around the second world war and during the cold war. a fairly heterogenius set of experiments done by lots of different people in lots of different places. all unified by the fact that they're constitutional studying the interaction of human beings and radioactivity. very curious phenomenon of radioactivity that came, i guess, to the -- its biggest fruition with the explosion over hiroshima and nagasaki in august of 1945. now, before we can talk about the experiments in order to make sense of them, we need to talk a
little bit about the context in which they were done. what we're going to talk about is, first of all, the war itself. second world war. we're going to talk about how it was a science-based war. we're going to talk about the development of big science. big science. lots of people. lots of investigators. lots of money. we need to understand the context in which it happened. now, there was medical research and physical science research going on in the inter-war period. we'll talk first about the physical science research and then about the medical research. there was some small poorly funded, poorly organized
research going on, and the example i'm going to use is the story about trying to find out where ab airplane is. the first world war saw a little bit of airpower. they were getting faster and bigger. they could show up over your head. you wouldn't know they were coming. a staff member noticed if you sent radio waez back, they would be sent back from planes. furthermore, if you looked at how long it took them to bounce back from the plane, you could figure out about how far away they were. in other words, he used radio to detect and range airplanes, and that's how we came up with the
acronym radar. radio detection and ranging. radar. the discovery of radar was very uncoordinated. it was done in a naval research laboratory, and the only way that the army even found out that it existed is that somebody from the army happened to go and visit the naval research laboratory. they didn't reach on the to civilians who had expertise in how to design a radar apparatus. they didn't have much funding. this was typical of the ad hoc manner of research in the inter-war period. the second world war, of course, starts in 1939. starts in urine. the united states doesn't enter until 1941. from the outset people knew that the second world war was going to be a science-based war.
one of the questions that arose is how do you organize the pursuit of science in war time? now, we've talked about this before with the question of how to organize the medical corps, and a lot of the same issues apply. the medical corps, you'll remember, at the height of the second world war, the number of people in the medical corps was bigger than the entire army had been in 1939. how do you organize it? you have to decide who is in charge and what the different units look like. then once you have made that decision, that decision is very likely to persist well after the war is gone. you create structures that then continue. the same thing happened for the organization of science. not surprising. a lot of it had to do with
vandervere bush. he was one of the early pioneers of concepts that we now call computing. he made a mechanical vegs of what we now have as an electronic computer. he was the dean at m. i.t. on became head of the office of the osrd. the "new york times" said that this made him the science tsar. he knew that access to the president was going to give him a lot of power in organizing scientific research, and he used that to get the medical research under his umbrella as well. roosevelt was about to shell out the medical research and put it in a different unit. he went to roosevelt, and he said you know the people that you want to give that responsibility to are under criminal indictment right now. well, that was literally true, but it had to do with anti-trust violations and hmo's in washington d.c. didn't matter.
roosevelt said i'm not giving this to people who are criminals, and it went instead under bush. now, what bush organized was a civilian organization. it was charged with coordinating the research. primarily funded by the military. what they learned to do is operate big scientific research. it used to be that people had simple research labs. you wanted to do research, you had a lab, you hired some people, you did research. now suddenly you have had people all over the country. you had people here and there and you needed lots of money. who could obtain the resources? it was starting to become the kind of big science that has now become the norm since then. again, the changes that were made lasted well after the war was over. let's get back to our example of
radar. what happens with radar? >> the government decided to fund a research laboratory and, again, they confronted the question of where do we put this lab? we talked earlier about the tension with government funded research. on the one hand, you've got people who say it ought to go equally to all the states. why should one state get more money than another state? on the other hand, if are you in the middle of a war or if a war is eminent as it was in 1940, it turns out that people in some states don't have much in the way of research infrastructure and people in other states do. the lab that was going to study radar was set up at the massachusetts institute of technology. they called it the rad lab, r.a.d. rad lab. that was actually an attempt to be deceiptful trying to confuse
people into thinking they were going to study radiation and physics which in 1940 didn't seem like it was going to be a big topic for investigation. well, radar turned out to be terribly important. i'll give you a couple of different examples. you've heard of the battle of britain. hitler wanted to invade britain. operation sealion in 1940 was supposed to smash britain's air force. germany had a lot more attack planes than britain had defense planes. by using radar, they were able to see the planes coming, use their fighters effectively, and as you know, germany, in fact, never did succeed in invading england, much to the surprise of many people at the time. the other place where it was perhaps even more important had to do with submarines. the german u-boats were wreaking havoc on american convoys supplying britain, later on supplying the war effort. they emitted confusing sonar
signals. it was hard to find them. it turns on the that the subs needed to surface to take in fresh air and recharge batteries, and when they surfaced, airplanes with radar could see them up to five miles away. how effective? consider this. in january and february of 1942 without using radar, allied forces put in 8,000 hours of patrol in the atlantic and managed to only find four submarines to attack. over a two-month period. the very first night a plane went out with radar installed, they found four submarines, and they sunk one of them. it's that kind of effectiveness of radar that has grown over the course of the war. it showed that organized research could make a difference. it has been said possibly accurately that the atom bomb ended the war, but radar won it.
a few more examples of the kinds of big physical science research. this is the slide that shows the monthly losses of german submarines, and you can see between 1941 and 1942 there's not a lot. then they bring in radar, and all of a sudden it goes up. these are examples of early computers. in this case computers means people who are doing computation. eventually we then move to electronic computers. another innovation was operations research, which meant using statistics and geometry to figure out the best way to find a submarine in the ocean. or the best way to organize your bomber squad so it would be unlikely to get shot down. this required some social engineering as well. vandervere bush wanted to approach the secretary of the navy. the chief of naval operations was so tough that he was said to "shave every morning with a
blowtorch." he really wasn't all that interested in civilians' ideas about how he ought best to run his navy. however, the success of the operation together with the promise that, first of all, the navy would be in charge of everything, and, second of all, the operations research scientist wouldn't take credit for anything. managed to convince him to use operations research and the radar and it got results. other kinds of results -- u.s. merchant vessels that used to take 35 weeks to be built were being built in 50 days. in 1939 the u.s. army air corps had 800 planes by the end of the war in 1944 at willow run airport just down the road. they were making almost 5,500 each year. proximity fuse that enabled
munition to explode when they got close to their target without actually having to hit it changed the entire strategy of warfare. all of these research ideas from mathematics and the physical sciences convinced people that scientific research was something worth funding and worth doing and that it would make a difference in the war effort. let's switch now to biological research that went on during the war. that's physical science research. poison gas. mustard gas. one of the most dreaded weapons of the first world war. concerns that it was going to be used widely in the second world war. the problem with mustard gas is that it's species-specific. in order to test gas masks, in order to test protective clothing, you have to do the experiments on human beings. you can't do them on anybody else.
lots of experiments were done using mustard gas. there were so-called man break experiments that were designed to see how long it would take a man to break, people were put into a chamber. the mustard gas was introduced. they weren't let out until they collapse and became unconscious, even though they might try very hard to get out. these were so-called volunteers. how voluntarily were the volunteers? one person who was there said "occasionally there have been individuals or groups who did not cooperate fully. a short explanatory talk, and if necessary, a slight verbal dressing down has always proved successful, and there's want been a single instance in which somebody refused to volunteer. it makes me wonder if they really were volunteering. some of the people who were used were prisoners and conscienceous objectors. the other thing is you owed something to the war effort if you weren't going overseas to fight, you needed to do something at home. now, mustard gas, as many of you
know, actually has a dual use. it was an early cancer chemo therapeutic agent, and there were experiments done at yale that showed some efficacy of -- some. the patients died, but they got better for a while. however, these were secret results, and they couldn't be published. what about epidemic diseases? always a problem in war time. gonorrhea. this is the federal prison in indiana where experiments were done on gonorrhea. penicillin was discovered in the 1930s. it was not widely produced. in 1941 there was not enough penicillin in the united states to treat even one patient. in 1942 there was enough to treat one. osrd, the organization headed by vandervere bush organized not only clinical trials, but also the production of penicillin.
controlled protocols showed it was incredibly effective for treating venereal disease like syphilis and gonorrhea, and by the end of the war there was enough for the army, there was enough for civilians, there was even enough to give it to some of our allies. there was also interest in using it to see if you could prevent people who had been exposed to gonorrh gonorrhea. they were proposing to give these men gonorrhea and see if penicillin could be used to treat it, but they knew this was likely to be sensitive. in a memo from the head of the committee on medical research, which was part of the office of scientific research and development, ann richards said when any risks are involved, volunteers only should be utilized as subjects, and these
only after the risks have been fully explained and after signed statements have been obtained which shall prove that the volunteer offered his services with full knowledge. now, this is a pretty clear indication of what you need to do to do experiments on people that might hurt them. it might have had wider applicability had it not been a secret memo. it's unclear who actually read them. in any event, the experiments at terre haute were stopped after a short time because it turned out it was more difficult than you might think to give people gonorrhea. they were not stopped, totally, and in another series of experiments that we touched on in another class, some of the same people involved in the united states went down to guatemala and continued these experiments after the war. that's another story. malaria. tremendous problem. in sicily, north after cardiac
the pacific theater and you heard from ashley about some of the efforts to eradicate malaria during the war and afterwards, some people thought it was the biggest medical problem of the war. it was harder to treat during the war because the drug that was most effective for treating malaria came from plants that were primarily in areas occupied by our enemies. another anti-malaria drug. you can see these men did not take their drug. sperlts we experiments were done using prisoners. we'll come back to prisoners later on in the lecture. one famous subject for the malaria experiments was nathan leopold who had kidnapped somebody at the university of chicago, and leopold and lowe became a very famous cause celeb. this image was on the malaria war in the stateville prison in illinois, and this led to issues in the nuremburg trials because there was a question whether or not prisoners could give informed consent.
as important as medical research was, doctors were not the star scientists. the people that really were the most important for the research in the second world war came from not medicine, but physics. this is a statue at the university of chicago by henry moore entitled nuclear energy. dan has a wonderful book called the physicists that talks about the physics during and after the war. in the 1930s scientists trying to understand pure science were trying to understand the nature of the atom and probably the most exciting scientific news in 1939 was the fissioning of the uranium nucleus. the question then arose if there's energy that can be derived from splitting the atom,
can you make a bomb? nobody was quite sure. it might be possible. you needed to be able to separate isotopes. there's a wonderful play called coppenhagen by michael frain. have any of you seen it? it's a great play. it sets up this question of the early years of the war and whether or not you could make a bomb. it revolves around what we know was a true interaction between heizenburg, probably the most brilliant physicist of the 20th century and i'm including einstein in that generalization. and neils bore, who worked out the they're yes of the atom. it took place in coppenhagen, this meeting. heizenburg came and visited bore. we don't know what happened in that meeting. we know they had a split. they used to be very close.
we know that heizenburg went back to germany, and we know that shortly afterwards germany gave up its attempts to make a nuclear bomb. figured that the problems in making a bomb were so great that we wouldn't be able to make a bomb. and one of the great historical questions about this episode, which, again, is very nicely set up in the play, is -- i mean, it's what happened. did heizenburg make a math error, or did he question whether or not it would be a good idea, and a horrible thing to speculate on is suppose germany had been able to make a nuclear bomb. they were dropping bombs on central london. as the war wound down, i don't think there's any doubt that if they had an atomic bomb, they would have dropped an atomic bomb if they could on central london, but they didn't.
making the bomb was hard. it required technical and social innovations. you had to separate the ice yo isotopes. you needed have large production plants to make large quantities of material. you had to get scientists and people in the military working together, which wasn't that easy. some of the work was done at existing universities, like the university of chicago. some of it was done in facilities specifically built for the government, like a plutonium works on the columbian river in washington state near hanford, washington. it's a site to which we will return. let's turn now to events at the university of chicago not very far from where we're sitting right here. let's turn to stag field. this is stag field in 1927. university of chicago played
there. anybody know who the first person to win the heisman trophy was and where he went to school? obviously the answer is the university of chicago. jay berwanger. university of chicago is a founding member of the big ten football conference. they eventually -- here we see some action taking place out on stag field. the university of chicago is an interesting institution. i had the opportunity to spend some time there. the stadium fell into disrepair, and here you see a chart that shows the joseph raggenstein library that now stands. imagine this, if you can. they tore down their football stadium to build a library. true story. they actually did. they also left the big ten in 1946. it left room for another member
to join the big ten to make up the full compliment of ten in 1949, michigan state university was admitted to the big ten. the university of chicago left. michigan state came in. they had a president who famously was known to observe that when i feel like exercising, i lie down auntil te feeling goes away. they were not big into the intercollegiate sports scene. however, in 1942 they still were in the big ten and stag field still existed. it had squash courts under the stadium. it was on those squash courts that an event transpired that truly changed the course of history.
this is an artist depiction of the event. there were no photographers present. we don't have any photographs. a very famous physicist was there to see if they could have a self-sustained nuclear reaction. there were cadmium rods. the clicks of the neutron counters increased said to sound like crickets chirping, and, family, the pile went krat critical showing, in fact, you could have a self-sustaining nuclear reaction. the code word was the italian navigator has landed in the new world. under the stands of stag field at the university of chicago, found out that we actually had the capacity to build, in theory, a nuclear bomb. the story then shifts.
in order to build this bomb, we needed to get some really, really smart people, and it had to be done in secret because we didn't know that germany was not going to be able to make a bomb, or japan. here in los alamos, new mexico, at an altitude north of albuquerque was gathered perhaps the greatest collection of nuclear physicists the world has ever seen. sometimes as many as eight nobel laureates will be sitting around dining together in the dining room. it's incredibly isolated. they cooked on hot plates because the wood stoves didn't work so well. they took these physicists from the radar research. they took them from all over the country. they were part of a system that costed eventually about $2 billion. they worked in complete secrecy to develop a nuclear weapon, to develop what they thought would be a nuclear weapon. they weren't sure.
finally, on july 16th, 1945 at ground zero showed here in new mexico the first nuclear bomb exploded. the question, what do we do now? this is the subject that has been debated a lot more now, i think, than it was then. president truman had seen what had happened in world war i. he wanted unconditional surrender from japan, and the emperor wasn't much in the mood to negotiate. meanwhile, the u.s. military was working its way across the pacific ocean in some pretty brutal, brutal battles. iwo jima. four weeks, 30,000 u.s.
casualties. okinawa, 12 weeks. 50,000 u.s. casualties. 90,000 japanese troops. 100,000 civilians. we thought this was going to be a rehearsal for invading japan, but if we invaded japan, that's what it was going to be like. we also weren't sure if the bomb would work consistently. it went off once. you could spend a whole course talking about the development of the atomic bomb. there are things that might not work. germany had decided it wasn't going to work. we weren't sure if we tried it again if it was going to work or not. in any event, the decision was made and aoution august 6th, 19 dropped an atomic bomb on hiroshima. there were 350,000 people alive in hiroshima on the 5th of august. 140,000 of them were dead the next day.
war is hell. this is a picture of hiroshima after the bomb blast. of a colleague who grew up in tokyo shortly after the war, he was born shortly after the war, and he lived on the fourth floor of an apartment building, and he said you could see for miles just to give you a sense of how much was wiped out. if you had been to tokyo, you know that the city is quite densely built now. after the war is hitting, he could see for miles. on august 9th we dropped another atomic bomb on nagasaki. the picture on top shows nagasaki before the bomb. the picture on the bomb shows nagasaki after the bomb. the war came to an end. on the 50th anniversary of the bombing of hiroshima yark the smithsonian institution attempted to do a display in
which they would show the airplane from which the bomb was dropped. it was so politically charnled and sensitive that they eventually threw their hands up and said -- they wanted to have an interpretive exhibit, a discussion of what's going on, they wanted to put things in context, but whatever they tried ran into protests and disruptions and objections. they eventually said we just can't do it. they simply showed the plane with a very simple factual plaque, but in no other discussion. 50th anniversaries are usually the toughest. 25th anniversaries, everybody still agrees with the original intents. 100th anniversary, nobody has left. there's nobody there who can complain who says i was there. 50th anniversaries are hard. the statue, by the way, was put up on the 25th anniversary of the first self-sustaining nuclear reaction. i used to walk past this on my way to school every day.
it's more or less on the spot where it took place. what we have in a sense here is the triumph of big science. we spent $2 billion and we had an atomic bomb. what should we do now? the war is over. what are we going to do about long-term control? after all, the bomb is based on the laws of nature which are available to everybody. the united states proposed a comprehensive evaluation, on site inspections to survey and control all uranium deposits and then we would relinquish our arsenal and scientific information. the soviet union proposed an immediate ban on the manufacturer and use the atomic weapons. the united states said the soviets were asking the united states to give up their monopoly and make everything public before they agreed to comply. the u.s. said the soviets were being unreasonable. nothing happened, and the cold
war started. the cold war is where a lot of the radiation experiments took place. some of them started in the second world war. most of nthem in the cold war. what was the cold war all about? europe was divided. now, don't forget that the united states and the soviet union were allies. we were partners in the second world war. we were on the same side. no longer. mao took over china. we had only a handful of warheads and only a few long-range missiles, and, of course, to no one's surprise, in 1949 the soviet union attained an atomic weapon. we got a hydrogen bomb in 1952. the soviets got a hydrogen bomb in 1953. we raced to develop more and more efficient ways of raining down destruction on each other. this is a titan 2 missile. this is the culmination that
came along a little later. this missile, which you can see is no longer functional. there is a girder covering the outlet. this still -- this is the only one that still exists. this is outside of tucson, arizona. this missile carried 600 times the destructive power of the bomb that landed on hiroshima. 600 times. there were three cities, wichita, little rock, and tucson. each one of them had 18 different sites. people who ran this missile were sitting under ground. they didn't know where the missile was targeting. they had keys. they each had to turn their key simultaneously for the missile to be fired. b-52's went overhead. the idea here was mutually assured destruction. the idea here was we've got overwhelming nuclear power, and if you attack us, we'll attack
you. kind of like, as somebody said, two scorpions in a bottle. each knowing that if you sting the other -- if one stings the other, they both die. that's why i wanted you to watch dr. strangelove. dr. strangelove, on the one hand, it's a comedic farce. it's black comedy. it's one of stanley kubrik's greatest movies ever, and he had a lot of them. the 2001 "clockwork orange," et cetera. it really gives you a sense of what the cold war was like. it's not a coincidence that if you notice at the very beginning of the movie, there is a disclaimer that says this is fictional and the u.s. military says there's no way this could actually happen. the notion of b-52 bombers being poised to take off and over fly russia and deliver unbelievable destruction was real.
i don't think there really was a doom's day machine, but it was an essential doom's day scenario. i personally grew up in columbus, mississippi, which is the home of a strategic air command base. i was there when the base was closed during the cuban missile crisis, as is depicted in dr. strange love. they closed the base. that's real. and people said at the end of the runway getting in a b-52 and nuke everything. this is the war room. one of my favorite lines is you can't fight -- there's no fighting in the war room, gentlemen. what did you guys think of strange love? did you like it? glad you watched it? it's a great -- this is, of course, major t.j. king kong riding the bomb down. this is a role that was originally offered to john wayne, but he turned it down. would this have affected the way people lived? again, we're going to get to the experiments in a second, but you understand how do we live?
this is a manual for survival under atomic attack. if you happen to be bombed, don't rush right outside. don't take chances. this is a real -- if you -- if the nuclear weapon is coming and you don't have anywhere to go, jump into a trench and cover yourself up with drying laundry. that will protect you from the heat. so people lived with this notion of what do we do if there is a nuclear attack? fallout shelters. shown here. and reflected in dr. strange love, of course, the idea there is people will go underground and survive forever. people had fallout shelters and they kept them stopped. and we had ethical discussions. i remember in high school, what do you do if you have only got enough food and water for one family and another family wants to come and jump into your fallout shelter? i think a more realistic
question is, if a nuclear war really comes and you manage to get into your fallout shelter, just what do you think you're coming out to when you finally come out? the korean war. there were -- this was a cold war, but it was a very hot war in many very real sense. senses. we competed on many grounds. when sputnik went up in october 1957, it was a huge deal. the soviet union was supposed to be a backward state, we were supposed to be much better than them, and all of a sudden they launched a satellite. and every 90 minutes, that satellite was coming around the globe. and the next thing, they announced another satellite. and this one had a dog in it. and they sent back telemetry showing that the dog was still alive. and so we decided we're going to launch a satellite too. and on december the 6th, we tried to launch a satellite from cape canaveral, only it didn't work. so we're in this conflict with the soviet union.
it's not entirely clear that we're winning. finally, the last part of the cold war ethos i want to mention is the cuban missile crisis which comes along in 1962. as you may recall, the united states saw evidence of the soviet union putting missiles in cuba, just south of us. we said bring them out. we put a blockade around cuba. and we danced around the question of nuclear war for some time until eventually a deal was struck and we did not have a nuclear war. so i don't want to talk about specific experiments that went on once you have a sense of what life was like. but let me just pause. any questions thus far about the cold war, what life was like during the cold war? what the ethos was like? okay. we're going to talk about experiments. some of the things we're going to talk about are informed or
not. were people told what the experiments were all about or not? we're going to talk about experiments done on patients. on children. on the general population. we are not going to touch on soldiers being used for radiation experiments. that's a fascinating topic. it's just -- we don't have time for that. it's a whole other topic. and we're going to talk about both the actual risk as we now understand it and what people understood then about the risk. but our story, we have to go back to los alamos. up in the mountains. people weren't sure they could get enough uranium 235, and so a guy named glen seborg, who is a native of michigan helped to derive a new element called plutonium. plutonium was named after the planet pluto. now, it should have been plutium, if you think about it but he just liked the way plutonium sounded better.
so that's why we call it plutonium. seborg went on to get the noble prize and chancellor at berkeley, very active in arms control later in his life. of now, what were the health effects of this plutonium thing? it didn't seem to penetrate the skin. but what about if you ingested it? what if the radioactive material was swallowed? we knew that was not good for you, because in the interwar period, there were women who were painting luminous dials on watches. if you have a glow in the dark watch in those days, it had radium on it, and so these women were paid to paint the dials on the watch. and they had very fine-grain brushes, and they would put the brush in their mouth to get the tip just exactly right and then they would paint the wash and swallow the radium and get a bunch of not so good diseases. so we knew that ingesting plutonium was probably dangerous. we knew what the characteristics were of radium but not of plutonium.
so in 1944, in room d-119, a 23-year-old chemist by the name of don mastic, promising young graduate of berkeley, was working in los alamos with plutonium. like so many things in medicine, this started with a mistake. potentially pretty serious mistake. he got it in his mouth. he could taste the acidic taste of the plutonium. he tried to spit out everything he could. they called for help, and he swished his mouth out every 15 minutes. did it 12 times. they pumped his stomach, they tried to extract out as much as possible. this is very valuable stuff. this is all the plutonium in the world. we're trying to build an atomic bomb and the stuff we could extract from his stomach may be what we need for the bomb. he didn't seem to have any horrible ill effects, except for many weeks thereafter, if he
walked into a room and just blew across the room, the radiation counters would go nuts, go off the scale. but we knew that he wasn't going to be the first person to invest plutonium. and we didn't know what it did. we didn't know what the health effects were. so we started to do a series of experiments. not at los alamos where there really wasn't very much in the way of medical facilities. but at oak ridge, at rochester, at the university of chicago. and at others. first patient was at oak ridge. 53-year-old african-american man was a cement worker named ebb cade. he was in a car accident. he was injected with 4.7 micrograms of plutonium. he wasn't told that he was being injected. he wasn't told what it was.
the remember, the very word plutonium was top secret. the fact that it existed was top secret. but we wanted to see what would happen and how it would be excreted. experiments went on to the university of chicago. first person was a 68-year-old man with an advanced cancer of the mouth and lung and the next was a 55-year-old woman with breast cancer. so here they were trying, it would appear, to pick patients who were likely to die. the third was a young man with hodgkin's. the last two got 95 micrograms. remember, the first guy got 4.7 micrograms. the last two got 95 micrograms. that's a whole lot more. and we learned that the excretion rate was different. that the fecal excretion rate was lower in humans than it was in animals. so that was useful information in trying to predict what would happen to people who ingested plutonium. again, it's unclear if the people who we injected with this
plutonium were even told what they were being injected with. similar kinds of things happened at other institutions, as well. the massachusetts general hospital took patients with brain cancer. 11 patients with brain cancer, termnally ill, injected with uranium. one didn't actually have brain cancer. they thought he did. he actually had some bleeding into his brain. so all these experiments were done without getting consent, without informing patients in order that we could continue to build bombs and take care of the people who were helping to build these bombs. the last set of experiments -- i'll go into a little more detail, happened in cincinnati. between 1960 and 1972. so-called total body irradiation.
or whole body irradiation. they were done in other places, as well, houston, baylor, memorial, sloan-kettering in new york. the theory was, if you had con cancer, we knew that radiation could be used to treat cancer, maybe irradiating your whole body, total body irradiation, would help slow the cancer. actually, we had some pretty good evidence at this point that it didn't work. for the cancer. but the department of defense was very interested in the effects of total body irradiation. because if there is a nuclear war, and people get irradiated, are they going to be able to function? will a pilot who is flying a plane be able to land the plane? will they be able to fight if there's -- will they be able to work? ironically, the people they wanted to do this experiment on
were precisely the people who were least likely to derive any benefit from it. we knew that certain kinds of cancer were sensitive to radiation. so irradiating those patients might expect to help them. but then the side effects of the radiation would be the side effects of the cancer and the department of defense wasn't particularly interested in the effects of radiation on people with metastatic cancer. they wanted to know what the effects of cancer were on a healthy 23-year-old pilot. and that could be best studied by irradiating people whose cancers were not going to respond to the radiation. most of the patients who were irradiated were poor. most of the patients who were irradiated were african-american. all of them had cancer. some of them weren't all that sick. some of them were still ambulatory. some of them were still going to
work. and the radiation had some pretty serious effects. out of the 90 people who were irradiated, 21 of them were dead within a month. and here's what's -- the -- there are many things that are bothersome about this. we know when you irradiate people, you get side effects. you get nauseated. you get very nauseated. but the department of defense didn't want the patients to be given medicines to reduce the nausea, because they wanted to know what the effects would be without the medicines to reduce the nausea. as a matter of fact, they didn't even want the patients to be informed that nausea might be a side effect, because that might influence them to get nauseated. so these patients were not even given the basic medicines that were given to other people at the time. to help prevent the side effects of the irradiation.
these experiments -- let's say ended in 1972. 1972 is the date you'll remember. of course, that's when the tuskegee experiments became public. that's when a lot of things happened. we'll move on in a second to radiation experiments on children. any questions about these radiation experiments? yes. >> was this before informed consent? >> the question is, was this before informed consent. >> that's a very good question. and it raises all sorts of issues. not to play word games, but the question is what is meant by informed consent. and the notion of informed consent as we now understand it hadn't really been fully articulated, although there is the court case of 1914 of schaumburg versus new york hospital, established a patient has the right to decide what happens to his or her own body.
the memo that i showed you earlier for the terre haute gonorrhea experiment suggested in 1942, the head of the committee on medical research thought that something very much like informed consent was absolutely essential. clearly, that was not being followed here. we'll talk about sources in a little bit. but one of the questions is how do you know if somebody had informed consent? what we have in some of the physicians claimed they got informed consent. but there's not documentary evidence of it. there was a lawsuit, by the way, and as a result of this, a plaque now sits in the hospital in cincinnati. other questions. all right. the walter e. ferdinand school in boston. research funded by the national
institutes of health, the atomic energy commission and quaker oats. this was an experiment on breakfast food. in which children were given breakfast food with radioactive iron and calcium to see how that food would be absorbed. the rationale for this was that quaker wanted to get a leg up on cream of wheat. they wanted to be able to show that their cereals were better absorbed and better spread throughout the body. i'm not making this up. how do they get them to do this? here's an excerpt from a letter. letter to parents, 1953. we have done some examinations in connection with the nutritional department of the massachusetts institute of technology. with the purpose of helping to improve the nutrition of our children. i want to point out that just like we saw if you'll remember
in some of the letters in the tuskegee experiments, asking the men to come in for a spinal puncture, which you had up at the top of the letter the names of institutions like the tuskegee institute or the alabama state board of health. here, massachusetts institute of technology, a very well-respected, highly regarded boston institution. the blood samples are taken after one test meal, which consists of a special breakfast containing a certain amount of calcium. and if you sign up for this, you get to be a member of a science club. and if you're a member of the science club, you get additional privileges. you get a quart of milk daily. you get to go to a baseball game and to the beach and to some outside dinners. nothing in here that says we're going to give you radioactive tracers. all right. this raises all sorts of questions similar to the ones we talked about with the willow brook experiments.
the willow brook experiments, by the way, i think i might not have mentioned, were also funded in part by the military, the armed forces were interested in a vaccine. and that's why they funded some of those experiments. this raises questions. first of all, can children give informed consent? are parents being coerced? if your child -- this was not a great institution, by the way. this was not a place you really wanted to be. did parents really feel like they had any sort of choice? a quarter of milk a day may not seem like a big deal but if you don't have it, is this too much coercion. it turns out that when you look at this critically the levels of radiation that they got probably didn't hurt them very much or at all. nonetheless this raises questions about whether it is appropriate to do experiments on institutionalized children without informing either them for their parents.
any questions about the fernal experiments? okay. let's move to oregon. so this is the cold war and we're into radiation. the idea of nuclear power is very big. the hope is that we will soon have nuclear powered airplanes quite seriously being discussed. pilots who are flying nuclear powered airplanes will be exposed to a lot of radiation. who else, space flight. people who go up in space. nasa is interested in this. people who work with nuclear power. if there is a nuclear attack, people will be exposed to radiation. what are they worried about? when they talk to potential crew
members on nuclear planes they were especially concerned about damage to what was euphemistically in the kinder gentler years referred to as the family jewels. testicles contain rapidly dividing cells. thus, if there's radiation exposure, those are cells that you would expect to be more likely to be hit by the radiation. this could produce chromosomal damage and potentially problems for your progeny down the road. testicles also have the advantage in that they can more easily than some bodily organs can be irradiated without having to irradiate the entire body. so in the oregon state, in the washington state prisons, between 1963 and 1973, there were a series of radiation
experiments done to determine the effect of irradiation on testicles. why prisoners? these were healthy men who weren't going anywhere for a while. also a way for them to pay back to society for what they've done. the experiments in oregon were overseen by extremely prominent endocrinologist. a machine was made to irradiate the testicles. men were asked to lie on their stomach, testicles were placed in warm water so they would hang down and then they would be irradiated. this will be followed by biopsies and then a vasectomy. if it caused any damage, they didn't want the men having any children. the recruitment was purely by word of mouth suggesting that they knew that the atomic energy commission who was sponsoring this research saw it as sensitive and didn't want it to be too public. there was a loose and informal
psychiatric examination and consultation with the chaplain. the chaplain was required to certify that the men in question were not roman catholic because if they were roman catholic they were not to have a vasectomy. there was no benefit to these men in terms of their health. they did get money. they were paid 25 cents a day. they got $25 for a testicular biopsy. whether for $200 would you have a testicular biopsy or vasectomy and if i'm reading your facial expressions correctly, i'm guessing the answer for you is no. so these were another set of
radiation experiments that went on in the prisons. they were stopped in 1970 because of changing environment. the administrators were concerned that prisoners could not fully consent. that's a valid concern. similar experiments were done in the washington state penitentiary. it's interesting to think for a moment about the use of prisoners in human experimentation in general. the concerns about experimenting on prisoners in the 1940s and 50s were not the same as the ones we might have today. the main concern was that they wouldn't be adequately punished. if you were in a medical experiment you get special privileges. you get to go to the hospital. you will get better food. if you're in prison, you're supposed to be punished for your crimes. it was affirmed in the journal of the american medical association as being a legitimate way of doing experiments. by 1972 90% came from phase 1 drug trials.
you have a new drug and you want to try it out and see what happens in gradually increasing doses, not as a treatment for disease, but to look for toxic effects. the experiments on prisoners were seen as being a privilege, perhaps not surprisingly tended to be more white than african american prisoners. we were in the united states way out of touch with the rest of the world, almost the entire rest of the world, experimentation of prisoners was seen as not ethical and not appropriate. the nuremberg code says you can't coerce people into doing experiments. the idea was if you're in prison you can't make a free choice about what you're doing. eventually prison experiments in the united states became nonexistent. they came up in the hearings about the tuskegee experiments that kennedy had only for one day.
prisoner experiments, any questions? this is hanford, washington. it's a lovely town on the columbia river. it's remote and in 1942 it was the site for a plutonium factory. for many years it was the place where plutonium was made. it was picked for a couple of reasons. one, ready access to fresh water for cooling from the columbia river. second reason is that it was out of the way. if you're making plutonium, when plutonium is top secret, you want to be secret. here is a billboard. don't talk. silence means security. another sign loose talk to chain reaction from espionage.
this is how they advertise it. atomic frontier day, new light on the old frontier. you're called that soviet union exploded its first bomb in 1945. how did we know what they are doing? we know because radiation put in the atmosphere spreads all over the world and we can pick it up here. how do we interpret that? that's hard. we wanted to figure out what radiation is like when it was put in the atmosphere. how did you it come down? where did it come down? how could you detect it? what better way to find out what that was like than to release radiation from a plant, like hanford.
these are the so-called green run experiments because the fuel that was used was young, or green. so they started releasing radioactivity into the atmosphere, so they could study how and when and where it came down. because this is top secret, they are not bothering to tell the people if the area that oh, by the way we'll be putting a lot of radiation into the atmosphere. there were problems. the weather wasn't what they expected or desired. they got more exposure at local sites. we now know that drinking milk from cows that graze on contaminated pastures is the main source of exposure for children. if you release the radiation, it lands on the fields, the cows eat the grass, children drink the milk. they did so with considerable secrecy. they pretended to be animal husbandry specialists from the department of agriculture to check it. if you're a spy, you think about
taking on a false persona. this is in your backyard in the united states. you've got somebody working for the atomic energy commission claims to be an animal husbandry expert who wants to check your cows. it's unclear how much damage was actually done. how many people were actually injured. it's also clear that there was probably more radiation released from the normal operations of the plants from 1944 to 1947 they released radiation by here is a cartoon showing hanford in the 19 40s and '50s, see people surrounded by fumes, kind of skeletal, i don't know if you can read on the back, it says, yes, sir, it is reassuring to know if we were in any kind of danger here, our government would let us know right away.
so you lose enormous trust when you start dumping radiation out into the field. you're also now using the entire population as your experiment subjects. this was done not only in hanford, in a handful of other places. there were nuclear explosions released to the atmosphere that impacted holy sites for the pueblo indians who live in close relationship to the land. this was done in the southwest. there was some concern and some observations that the spanish and native-americans tended to be more often down stream in the releases than the others. before i transition to how we know about this and how these experiments came to life, how questions about the experiments?
how many of you knew about these experiments before this class? word of mouth or reading about them. word of mouth. >> in another history class. >> okay. >> how do we know about this. >> if they were top secret and they were top secret. there were early reports and rumors that some americans had been injected with plutonium. a congressional report in 1986 was called america's nuclear guinea pigs. written in bland congressional language. a journalist wrote about the story and got names and faces. i mentioned a few people here. she wrote some incredible
stories and has a wonderful book out called the plutonium files. but really we started to find out a lot more about these with the book that came out of a commission. this was the rather thick book. this is from the advisory committee on human relations experiments, it was created in january of 1994. president bill clinton ordered all federal agencies and a ton of tough was declassified. and one of the things that happened as a result of this book and this commission was that the declassified documents are now publicly available. lots of people have gone to them and written about them. now, the commission that he formed was made up of historians, philosophers, lawyers, radiologists, physicists, even a private
citizen. they were deluged with inquiries of people who wondered if something had happened to them or to their loved ones, and one of the staff members here who is taping this shared with me that his father was actually at hanford in this period. people wondered what was going on. they held lots of hearings. there were lots of groups of people who felt aggrieved. veterans, convicts, mothers. people in the wrong place at the wrong time. they grapple with the tension of how do you make judgments, how do you differentiate between wrongness of actions and blameworthiness of actions. it's one thing to say it is wrong. it is another thing to say who is to blame. they were asked to decide who should receive monetary damages. who deserves money for this that who was wronged enough that the government ought to pay. they came up with a fairly short list, and they were criticized for that.
the report was released and president clinton apologized on october the 3rd, 1995. on the evening news that night, i don't think it was even mentioned because also on october 3rd, 1995, the jury came down with the verdict in the o.j. simpson trial. so it's an example of bad timing to release a report. now this is a wonderful book. really a tremendous job of historical and policymaking research. you may have noticed that some of what i'm telling you has not been as crystal clear as it might be, and that is because the nature of historical research that many of the records of what happened are incomplete.
we just don't know. some are contradictory. some things we don't have protocols for. you asked about informed consent. we don't know. maybe because it was being done in war time. maybe because it was top secret maybe because nobody bothered to write it down. maybe because what we're doing here is a little dicey and maybe we don't want to keep records and maybe we need to lose these records. we don't know. i think the committee did as good a job as they possibly could of finding out as much as they possibly could about this. a fundamental question they grappled with is how do we make retrospective judgments. how do we assess what people did in the past from our own perspective?
a lot of the concepts of informed consent were not fully articulated until well after this time, so not really fair to go back and say, well, they didn't do things the way they would have done. the committee did come up with a method of making retrospective. that i think makes a lot of sense. first of all, they said there are certain basic ethical principles that stand the test of time and place. they then of course pointed out that all of those ethical principles have exceptions. then they said there are certain policies of government departments or agencies, you ought to follow the policies of wherever you're working. the problem here is that if the policies are secret, how do you know about them? finally, they said there are the rules of professional ethics that people need to pay attention to.