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The Neutron's ChildrenNuclear Engineers and the Shaping of Identity$
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Sean F. Johnston

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199692118

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199692118.001.0001

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Unstable impressions

Unstable impressions

(p.227) 8 Unstable impressions
The Neutron's Children

Sean F. Johnston

Oxford University Press

During the Second World War and for a decade after it, secrecy kept nuclear specialists from public view. Popular representations evolved in step with political contexts, from admired ‘atomic scientists’ during the late 1940s to mistrusted and distant scientists during the early Cold War. With the decline of secrecy and the first nuclear power plants came public perceptions of heroic and ingenious engineers during the late 1950s, and seductive popular literature to entertain and inspire the next generation of nuclear experts. But within a decade, nuclear experts were increasingly portrayed as part of secretive and dangerous industries. Their identities were shaped by proxy—often as voiceless participants portrayed by their governments, and buffeted by public criticisms following major accidents such as Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima.

Keywords:   popular culture, representations, public identity, atomic scientists, spies, cinema, nuclear history, espionage, fiction, literature, professionalism, recruitment

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