Alex Wellerstein F'09

Alex  Wellerstein
Associate Historian
American Institute of Physics

Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships 2009
Doctoral Candidate
History of Science
Harvard University
Knowledge and the Bomb: Nuclear secrecy in the United States, 1939-2008

This dissertation traces the history of nuclear weapons secrecy in the United States from the discovery of fission through the present era. As a narrative and analytic history, the project focuses on how ideas about the nature of science, technology, and governance intersected at the question of how and whether to restrict information as a means of guarding against war, nuclear proliferation, and nuclear terrorism. Framing its arguments within the context of American institutions of power, the study shows that ideas about the effectiveness of secrecy are historically contingent, not technologically determined, and traces the relative success of the discourse of secrecy against other competing discourses in government and society.