Jack Klempay

Graduate Student

My dissertation project is a history of the atomic veterans, soldiers who were exposed to radiation through their participation in nuclear tests. During the period of exposure, soldiers conducted exercises and were subjected to a battery of physical and psychological tests in order for war planners to anticipate the challenges they would face on the nuclear battlefield. Later, when veterans began to suspect that their deteriorating health could be attributed to their exposure to ionizing radiation, the Defense Nuclear Agency started an ambitious program to reconstruct the exposure of each participant in order to provide data for epidemiological studies. Over the next several decades, the status of the atomic veterans continued to be debated in Congress, in the press, and in the courts, fueling controversy over the health effects of low-level radiation exposure. This dissertation focuses on the tools and techniques that were used to produce knowledge about veterans' exposures, including film badges, epidemiological studies, and retrospective dosimetry, as well as the way that science interacted with culture, politics, and history-writing in the process of reckoning with the legacy of the atomic age.

I am currently a Fellow at the Center for Digital Humanities at Princeton and have taught classes in environmental history and medical anthropology. Before that, I received an M.Phil. from the University of Oxford in Modern Languages and a B.A. from Columbia University in Comparative Literature and Society

Year of Study
Fifth Year
Area of Interest
Environmental History
Medicine & Health
Science and Technology Studies
Home Department & Other Affiliations
20th Century
21st Century
North America