News and Notes

H-bomb talk, National Museum of American History

by Alex Wellerstein, published January 15th, 2013

Just a little announcement for my DC-area friends: I'm giving a talk on the history of the hydrogen bomb next week at the colloquium of the National Museum of American History. It's on Tuesday, January 22, 2013. Tea and cookies are served at 3:30pm, the talk starts at 4:00pm.

Well, it was a little conspicuous.

The title is "The Hydrogen Bomb and the Shifting Focus of Cold War Scientific Secrecy." I'll be talking about some research I've been working on for a few years now relating to how the H-bomb debate and its aftermath changed the way in which Cold War nuclear secrecy operated. Basically, I argue that something big changed in 1950 -- the way the government started handling its scientists, the press, and the legality of secrecy suddenly shifted in a much more antagonistic direction. I argue this wasn't actually because of a radical shift in ideology, but more because of a series of practical governance problems that the Atomic Energy Commission were faced with in late 1949 and early 1950 (the first Soviet bomb, the H-bomb debate, and finally the revelation of Fuchs as a spy). Seeing this shift, and making sense of why and how it happened, required going deep into the AEC archives to unearth the secret history of secrecy.

It is a pretty fun topic, one I am pretty excited about, and even well-seasoned nuclear folks will learn new things. Please feel free to pass this on to anyone you think would be interested.

The talk is done, and it was fun! People laughed when I hoped they would and I kept more or less within my time limit. If you're interested in listening to the audio (it's about an hour) and looking at the slides, shoot me an e-mail or leave a comment here and I'll get in touch with you.

5 Responses to “H-bomb talk, National Museum of American History”

  1. Ben Johnson says:

    Alex, will those of us suckers not in the DC area be able to view your presentation after the fact? Or maybe get a good summary? Good luck with your presentation.

    • If I remember to, I’ll make an audio recording of it. I’m happy to e-mail that and the slides to whomever is interested, but I won’t be posting it on the blog itself (as it’s still work in progress). So, if you’re interested, get in touch.

  2. Patrick McCray says:


    What Ben said…can’t make it obviously but would love to see the slides and listen to the audio.

  3. Annalisa Salonius says:


    Not in DC, but I’d really like to listen to your talk/see the slides. Glad it went well!

  4. Tony G. says:

    Alex, If your offer still stands, I would like the opportunity to experience your presentation.