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Living with Radiation - The Role of the International Atomic Energy Agency in the History of Radiation Protection


research focus

IAEA's mobile laboratory at Taipei, 1960
Lupe [1]

How best to protect us from ionizing radiation?
Despite the establishment of technical radiation standards, the harmful effects of radiation exposure continue to be a major issue in the nuclear world. Obviously, radiation protection is not a strictly techno-scientific issue.
Living with Radiation turns our attention to nuclear diplomacy as a means for understanding how our scientific knowledge about radiation protection has been shaped by diplomatic, social, economic, and political concerns. Our research marks a diplomatic turn in history of science.

a dipliomatic turn in history of science [2]



What we do

The temporary headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Kaerntner Ring in early 1960s (IAEA archives)
Lupe [3]

  • study the historical role of the IAEA in shaping radiation protection
  • explore societal concerns around radiation protection
  • analyze the multiplicity of nuclear diplomacies
  • prepare policy recommendations on science diplomacy

Final ERC results will affect those who

Picture Standard scanning manikins constructed at the Oak Ridge Institute for Nuclear Studies (ORINS) in the mid 1950s were shipped to medical facilities around the world to assist in establishing the optimal operating parameters of rectilinear scanners. A similar one was constructed at the IAEA in early 1960s.
Lupe [4]
  • design and implement radiation protection policies,
  • deal with radioactive materials both in nuclear industries and in the medical sector,
  • encounter radiation in their daily lives—as most of us do.

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ERC Principle Investigator

Maria Rentetzi
Lupe [5]

Maria Rentetzi, Professor at the Technical University Berlin, is an internationally acknowledged historian of science and technology who runs a 2 million ERC consolidator grant (2019-2024) on the history of radiation protection and nuclear diplomacy. Her research cuts across traditional disciplinary divides, bringing humanities closer to the physical sciences. Professor Rentetzi is currently building her ERC team, a highly international group of male and female scholars who will support her research project.

Maria Rentetzi [6]




Prof. Dr. Maria Rentetzi
sec. H 23
Room H 2527
Straße des 17. Juni 135
10623 Berlin
+49(0)30 314-21284
+49 30 314-73815/Sekr.
e-mail query [7]


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