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Military Lecture: Atomic Soldiers – The Canadian Armed Services and Radiation Exposure during the Cold War
February 17, 2022Free
Banner Image: April 1935, W.L. Britnell and Stan McMillan unload the first shipment of uranium concentrate from the Northwest Territories. Source: opentextbc.ca, Canadian History: Post-Confederation by John Douglas Belshaw
Military Lecture: Atomic Soldiers – The Canadian Armed Services and Radiation Exposure during the Cold War is presented by Dr. Matthew Wiseman.
During the early Cold War period, the United States and the United Kingdom conducted various nuclear weapons trials with live radiation, but little is known of Canada’s participation. In this talk, Dr. Matthew Wiseman will discuss the history of No. 1 Radiation Detection Unit (RDU), a special tri-service unit established in 1950 to assess radiological hazards for the Canadian military.
Operational between 1950 and 1959, RDU personnel participated in live trials and assessed nuclear toxicity at blast sites in the United States and Australia. Recently opened records suggest that senior officials in the Canadian Army exposed unit personnel to hazardous conditions during trials, resulting in direct exposures to dangerously high radiation levels. Dr. Wiseman will explore and discuss the military and ethical considerations of using soldiers during live nuclear weapons trials, as well as the continuing impact on the participating soldiers and their families.
About Matthew Wiseman:
Dr. Matthew Wiseman is a Banting Fellow in the Department of History at St. Jerome’s University in the University of Waterloo. His research focuses on the history of science and technology in modern Canada. With an eye to understanding the social impacts of scientific research and technological development, his published work examines the political and ethical dimensions of state-sponsored research conducted at government, private, and academic institutions. He also studies the history of Canada’s National Research Council and the role of gender in the development and progression of the natural sciences.
Wiseman holds a Ph.D. in History from Wilfrid Laurier University and the Tri-University Graduate Program in History. Upon the completion of his doctoral degree, he held a two-year Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of History at the University of Toronto and later a one-year Associated Medical Services (AMS) Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of History at Western University.
Missed the live event? Watch the recording of Atomic Soldiers below: