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Let’s Make Public History!

Blackett book cover

By Linda Richards, OSU History of Science Graduate Student

The photo above is one of the first photographs of alpha tracks taken by physicist Patrick M.S Blackett in 1924. OSU History of Science Professor Mary Jo Nye wrote a fascinating biography called Blackett, Physics,War, and Politics in the Twentieth Century (Harvard University Press, 2004). Her book is one reason I became so interested in how scientists and institutions grew the field of nuclear science.

I followed Professor Nye to Oregon State because I wanted to learn from her.

To my surprise, I found at the Oregon State University Archives that there were many interesting stories about nuclear science right here in Corvallis.  I found these stories because of the help of wonderful archivists, Professor Bill Robbins, Professor Paul Farber, and the Radiation Center faculty, Professor David Willis, Professor Art Johnson, and Professor John Ringle.

The OSU physics department in the 1920s developed one of the first radio stations in the state. OSU was one of only thirteen colleges to begin radioabiology studies for medical and agricultural applications in the late1940s. Later our physics department built and operated the first cyclotron in the state of Oregon.  As part of the Atoms for Peace program, OSU installed the first “Atom Reactor” in the state. By 1959 OSU began a graduate program in Nuclear Engineering and by 1967, the TRIGA Mark II training reactor was installed to make OSU home to one of the most powerful Radiation Centers in the nation. Today, the Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics (NERHP) program is one of the top ten programs in the country.

On October 11 and 12, 2009 the NERHP program celebrated their 50th Anniversary, and OSU students, staff and faculty recorded the memories of eleven NERHP students, staff and faculty who built the field of nuclear science worldwide.

See the additional pages for excerpts of their transcripts, photos, and history of fifty years of  OSU NERHP.

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