Invitation: “Seduced by Radium: How Men and Women became Familiar with Radiation”

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presented by

Maria Rentetzi, Chair of Science, Technology and Gender Studies de la Universidad Friederich-Alexander de Erlangen-Nuremberg

Wednesday 20 April 2022, at 11.30 am (CET), at the Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales, CSIC;

calle Albasanz 26-28, Madrid 28037

Online live connection will be available at

No registration needed.


In the early 20th century radium infiltrated American culture thanks to powerful commercial producers who aggressively promoted the benefits of radium therapy and its curative properties as part of their lucrative business strategies. Throughout this period we witness a constant flow of radioactive materials, expertise, people, and ideas among elite academic institutions, medical establishments, the industry, commerce, and the private spaces of the home. Radium companies enacted a powerful discourse on what radium was: a familiar, affordable commodity and part of Americans’ everyday routine. The public was already being seduced. How could radium be hazardous? This paper analyzes through a gender perspective how commercial strategies differed for women and men with consequences for both. This early history sheds light on the later efforts of national and international regulatory institutions to control radioactive materials of strategic political and diplomatic importance as well as to develop the nuclear industry and promote nuclear medicine after the Second World War.