Profiles of the Atomic Age
What Is This? Let Me Tell You.
My name is Liz Rasmussen and I am a member of Colgate University’s Class of 2021. In developing a final project for the class, Advent of the Atomic Bomb, I decided to compile the stories and opinions of individuals who have either lived or grown up under the influence of nuclear power. In doing so, I hoped to make the aftermath and overall influence of the atomic bombs tangible to the generations which have not had as profound a relationship with this power as those who experienced the nuclear age first-hand.
Although the focus of this class has mainly been the years leading up to and immediately after the use of Little Boy and Fat Man, the majority of people I was able to talk to grew up during, or even after, the period of the Cold War. Due to the fact that the Cold War is known for its incredible tension over the balance of nuclear power, I saw this as a great opportunity to try and understand the subtler impact of atomic weapons that is not covered in most global perspectives. One thing to keep in mind while exploring this website is that the tension of the Cold War did not always manifest itself as nuclear war between the United States and Soviet Union, although it did come dangerously close. Rather, the Cold War was launched by the introduction of the atomic bombs in 1945 and became a series of incidents, such as the Berlin Airlift, Korean War, Vietnam War, Cuban Missile Crisis, and so on and so forth, in which the Americans and Soviets clashed in various theaters and the world strove to understand the place of nuclear power. In essence, the Cold War was, largely, a direct result of nuclear weapons being introduced, and the way people have interacted with this time period has varied.
As I began my research and started to communicate with alumni, it became immediately clear that not every individual has had direct contact with nuclear weapons or energy. What I did find, however, was that every person I talked to had been affected in some capacity by these subjects. Whether it was through their college experience, their job, their service in the military, or their childhood in a nation suffering from atomic fever, everybody had something to say and some way to connect to the issue at hand.
Listening to what they had to say, I realized that the effects of nuclear power are not always obvious or expected. Not every person can be Robert Oppenheimer, Leslie Groves, or Paul Tibbets, but every individual will have their own story that contributes to the larger history of what nuclear power is and how it is regarded. In putting this website together, I began to realize how obscure some of the effects were and how, even though they may seem small or insignificant at first glance, these impacts are a huge part of the story that is often overlooked and undervalued. Having conducted these conversations and engaged with people who were touched in various ways by nuclear power, I firmly believe it is important to understand their stories so that the influence of atomic science does not become detached from humanity. It is important to understand that this form of power does not only affect global policies and abstract concepts, but individual human beings as well.
All in all, I was in contact with a total of 20 Alumni, from Colgate and beyond, and have been able to obtain a more complete and nuanced understanding of how the atomic bombs have touched the lives and influenced the experiences of many people. In addition, I was exposed to a variety of opinions and perspectives on nuclear weapons and nuclear power, some of which I had never really considered before. Overall, the help and support I received from everybody involved in this project has been fantastic, and I hope you will find the stories and contributions presented here as intriguing and thought-provoking as I have.