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The Plutonium Files: America's Secret Medical Experiments in the Cold War

4.22  ·  Rating Details ·  239 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
When the vast wartime factories of the Manhattan Project began producing plutonium in quantities never before seen on earth, scientists working on thetop-secret bomb-building program grew apprehensive. Fearful that plutoniummight cause a cancer epidemic among workers and desperate to learn more about what it could do to the human body, the Manhattan Project's medical docto ...more
Paperback, 592 pages
Published October 20th 2010 by Delta (first published 1999)
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Mar 14, 2012 Mike rated it it was amazing
I need to preface this review by saying a couple things about myself moreso than about the book: For one, I grew up wanting to either be a fighter pilot or work for the Department of Energy in one of the fabled national labs. I always saw the military and the DOE as leading the way in many areas of the most advanced of high technologies and I wanted very badly to be part of that. So I have respect for these institutions, possibly more than many readers who will pick up this book. Secondly, when ...more
Feb 03, 2015 dejah_thoris rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
First and foremost, this book is LONG, so don't attempt it unless you have the time to dedicate to it. I was debating if Welsome could cut any of the background on the Manhattan Project, Los Alamos, the Japanese bombings, etc. but after much reflection I've concluded she probably cut as much as she probably could without losing the narrative for the uninitiated. Of course, if you're already well-versed in the historical background, much of it will be repetitive, but in the context of human exper ...more
Apr 03, 2009 DLanie rated it it was amazing
The Plutonium Files by Eileen Welsome garnered her a Pulitzer Prize for its writing. This is a part of our country's history that so many people know very little about - yet it continues to impact us today. This book should be required reading by any Civics or history class studying the second world war and the Cold War. The interestingly applied approach to ethics during this time in history, which resulted in thousands of unsuspecting American citizens being injected with Plutonium, Uranium, a ...more
Aug 18, 2009 Jason rated it really liked it
Documents excellent grounds on which to be suspicious of both the US government and the US scientific establishment.
Jul 24, 2011 Shelly rated it it was ok
OMG it's a long read with a lot of information that seems to get redundant, but the topic is interesting.
Jun 24, 2012 J. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Having just finished this book, it's easy to see why Welsome received a Pulitzer Prize for it. Typically, I enjoy historical analyses regarding our atomic age, but this one blew me away. In the aftermath of the WWII, post-Nuremberg, the revelations of American scientific research are cold and stark - not just revelations of science, but of ethics and humanity. Have just limped away from the horrible crimes committed by Nazi scientists, we can see just how little America learned.

While not titilla
Dec 03, 2011 John rated it it was amazing
Written with understanding offered to a non-technical reader, this book is the culmination of one journalist’s exploration into the shadowy world of America’s secret nuclear program. Eileen Welsome brings the detail and history of Richard Rhode’s The Making of the Atomic Bomb but uses a fresh, engaging voice.

The chapter I’m currently reading tells of earliest observations to radiation health concerns. Women working in New Jersey in the early twentieth century who painted the dials of radium watc
Eugene Mah
Sep 24, 2010 Eugene Mah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the first emotions this book elicits from readers is indignation and shock that physicians and government agencies could let the kind of experiments described in this book occur, and the treatment the patients received. This book will no doubt attract significant attention because of the radiation experiments described, but the book seems be more about the prevailing attitudes of physicians and scientists towards patients and research at the time. The activities that take place in the boo ...more
Jul 18, 2010 liirogue rated it it was amazing
Wow - this should be required reading.

Welsome exposes and intricately details the medical experiments that were done on unwitting and unknowing American citizens during the Cold War. It is absolutely amazing what was done, and it blows my mind that more people don't know about this.

This book is far from perfect. A huge number of people are described here, and I had a hard time keeping up with them all. Welsome also goes too far into techno-jargon and I found myself sometimes unable to understand
Judith Cartisano
Jul 26, 2013 Judith Cartisano rated it it was amazing
I could only read this book a little bit at a time. I found myself becoming emotional and nauseous while reading about the disgusting, immoral plutonium injections and other "treatments" given to innocent folks and to the experiments conducted on all the rest of us, via nuclear bomb testing. The book is disturbing but well worth reading, if only to be warned about what the minds of sociopaths are capable of creating when they are allowed to run amok. There appeared to be no discussion of the mor ...more
wow. the true story behind tests condoned and conducted by the u.s. government on unsuspecting and uninformed citizens. tests that all involved exposure to different types of radioactive material so that the government would be able to ascertain/understand the effects of radioation on the human body. (i guess hiroshima & nagasaki weren't graphic enough evidence that radiation does terrible things to humans...) people were injected with plutonium, mentally handicapped children were fed radioa ...more
Jan 19, 2016 Deborah rated it liked it
It's incomprehensible the things done to people in the name of science. Many years ago people were sterilized and worse. Not a happy read by any means. It's shocking yet informative.
This is the book that prompted an unprecedented presidential inquiry under Bill Clinton into Cold war human radiation experiments. A chilling expose of one of the most disturbing set of medical experiments ever performed on unsuspecting subjects. Based on groundbreaking reporting by Albuquerque journalist Eileen Welsome, this book is an invaluable addition to the literature of both Cold War history and medical ethics. It offers a stark reminder of the corrosive combination of the cult of nationa ...more
Jun 15, 2008 Angelar is currently reading it
Eileen Welsome first broke the story on the U.S. government's secret radiation experiments on humans during the Cold War at the now-defunct Albuquerque Tribune, in a series which won her a Pulitzer. Since my family has considerable roots in Los Alamos and LANL, and since New Mexico's history is inextricably bound with that of the Manhattan Project, I picked this book up at the library. It's chilling and fascinating, although sometimes the vast cast of characters are hard to keep straight.
Jul 12, 2009 Tracy rated it really liked it
I was interested in this one because we live near a nuclear site as well as the fact that I had cancer that was treated with a medical isotope. It is very disturbing to discover the kinds of tests that AMERICANS performed on AMERICANS without their knowledge. It was slow and wordy at times but interesting all the same.
Oct 16, 2007 Bridget rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: socialscience
Wow. We really did inject unsuspecting Americans with plutonimium to study the health effects of radiation. This book lays it all out, going through fifty years of documents, and interviewing survivors and their family members. If you ever question the need for human subjects projection in medical research, read this book.
Mar 07, 2008 Jenava rated it really liked it
Shelves: health
Ahhhh....I forgot I read this book! This book reminds me that it is very important for me to think for myself and be aware of the smoke and mirrors that are often used in big business and government. The testing done on pregnant women is particularly disturbing, seeing how the women had no idea?!!
Oct 21, 2012 Mary rated it it was amazing
It's amazing to see how many scientist who were involved in these experiments were also at the fore front of cancer treatment. Enjoyed reading this novel but it made me question the bases of modern medical treatment today and if these types of experiments continue in the name of medicine.
Sep 23, 2008 Andrea rated it it was amazing
Although very long and filled with a lot of medical jargon...this book talks about the secret medical experiments that were done here in the United States and else where during the Cold War. It's pretty crazy and quite scary!!!
Oliver Hazan
Jan 23, 2011 Oliver Hazan rated it it was amazing
A chilling look at medical (and industrial) accidents and experiments which occurred as we started to understand radioactivity better. Very well written and thoroughly engrossing.
May 30, 2013 Tfalcone rated it liked it
Totally interesting and a good review about the medical aspects associated with plutonium production.
May 08, 2012 Laurie rated it it was amazing
OMG... it's amazing what the American govt. has done to it's own public.
Not for the faint of heart.
Jun 20, 2011 Jan rated it liked it
Scary and interesting book about human experimentation during the developement of atomic weapons.
Lynn Winchell-mendy
Nov 08, 2014 Lynn Winchell-mendy rated it it was amazing
This is my all time favorite non-fiction book. Eye opening and unforgettable.
PEN Center USA
Aug 01, 2011 PEN Center USA rated it it was amazing
2000 PEN Center USA Award Winner for Research Nonfiction
Jul 22, 2010 Shannon rated it it was amazing
Wow. This book is amazing. Some scary history here.
Books Ring Mah Bell
Jun 05, 2009 Books Ring Mah Bell marked it as to-read
Shelves: on-hold
oh no they di'int!?!?

They di'.
Sep 04, 2015 ninamo rated it it was amazing
fascinating and frightening.
Nov 19, 2014 Melissa rated it liked it
Shelves: ladies-writin
Pretty creepy stuff, y'all.
Kaeleigh Forsyth
what da fweak
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