Nuclear Research in Medicine after the Second World War

Nuclear Research in Medicine after the Second World War

Johannes Mattes (Austrian Academy of Sciences, University of Oslo), Cécile Philippe (Medical University of Vienna), Maria Rentetzi (Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg)
Medical University of Vienna, Austrian Academy of Sciences
Vom - Bis
20.03.2023 - 21.03.2023
Johannes Mattes, Austrian Academy of Sciences & University of Oslo

How has nuclear medicine developed as a scientific field? Which role did interdisciplinary and international cooperation play? A two-day conference in Vienna will explore these questions. It is organized by Johannes Mattes (Austrian Academy of Sciences, University of Oslo), Cécile Philippe (Medical University of Vienna) and Maria Rentetzi (Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg).

Nuclear Research in Medicine after the Second World War

Nuclear research in medicine relies on a high degree of interaction. While the production of radioisotopes and the development of medical devices are carried out by physicists and engineers, chemists and pharmacists take over the syntheses of radiopharmaceuticals, while physicians focus on their application. In the absence of handbooks, industrially available devices, and radioisotopes, early specialists were also dependent on multilateral exchanges. These were fostered by post-war agreements for the peaceful use of atomic energy and international organizations such as the IAEA and WHO.

Thus, the formation of nuclear medicine as discipline was the result of a global balancing and standardization process during the Cold War era. Its origins are traced in the first broad clinical applications of radioisotopes primarily in the United States and the United Kingdom just before the Second World War and continued with the worldwide dissemination of relevant knowledge and techniques that were mainly triggered by the United Nations international organizations. Nevertheless, in many countries, nuclear medicine did not get recognized as a medical specialty with separate residency training until the 1990s.

This symposium focuses on the emergence of nuclear medicine as an outcome of scientific collaboration and competition, boundary and interdisciplinary work, and encounters between various (inter)national stakeholders, as well as political, diplomatic, and scientific institutions. Contributions by eminent scholars from Canada, Europe and East Asia will explore the scientific, political, diplomatic and social dimensions of these interactions, the knowledge, resources and policies involved.

An event sponsored by:
Austrian Academy of Sciences (OeAW), Institute of Culture Studies and Theatre History / Commission for the History and Philosophy of Sciences of the OeAW / Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU), Chair of Science, Technology and Gender Studies / Medical University of Vienna (MedUni Vienna), Division of Nuclear Medicine / Austrian Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (OGNMB)

Please register here:


Monday. 20 March 2023
(Meduni Vienna, Jugendstil-Hörsaal, Rector's Office Building (BT88), Spitalgasse 23)

Opening Ceremony

Welcome by the Conference Organizers:
- Johannes Mattes (OeAW)
- Cécile Philippe (MedUni Vienna)
- Maria Rentetzi (FAU)
- Helmut Denk (President of the Commission for the History and Philosophy of Sciences of the OeAW & emeritus Professor of Anatomical Pathology, Medical University of Graz)
- Johannes Feichtinger (Director of the Institute of Culture Studies and Theatre History, OeAW)
- Marcus Hacker (Head of the Division of Nuclear Medicine, MedUni Vienna)
- Rudolf Höfer (Nuclear Medicine Pioneer & emeritus Head of the University Clinic of Nuclear Medicine, MedUni Vienna)

Welcome Reception in honor of the 100th Birthday of Professor Rudolf Höfer
Laudator: Michael Weissel (Professor of Internal Medicine, MedUni Vienna)

Guided Tour through the facilities of the Division of Nuclear Medicine, MedUni Vienna

Tuesday 21 March 2023
(OEAW, Johannessaal, Ignaz-Seipel-Platz 2, Austrian Academy of Sciences)

Get together over coffee and tea

Introductory Words by the Organizers
- Johannes Mattes (OeAW)
- Cécile Philippe (MedUni Vienna)
- Maria Rentetzi (FAU)

Session One: Discipline-Building Technologies and Institutions
Chair: Gabriella Ivan (IAEA Archives)

Hsiu-yun Wang (National Cheng Kung University, Tainan, Taiwan): Going Nuclear with Colonial Legacy: Dr. Kao Tien-Cheng and Radioactive Iodine in Taiwan, 1950s–1960s

Loukas Freris (FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany): “A Peaceful Bomb”: radiotherapy and the emergence of a new professional identity in Greece (1959–1978)

Johannes Mattes (University of Oslo, Norway, OeAW) & Cécile Philippe (MedUni Vienna): Distinction matters: Therapeutic Isotopes, Imaging Technologies, and Discipline Building of Nuclear Medicine in Cold War Europe

Kapil Patil (FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany): Building a “Mini Mayo Clinic”: Peaceful Atoms, Technical Assistance, and the Evolution of Radiation Medicine Center in India

Lunch break

Session Two: Political, Social, and Gendered Aspects of Knowledge and Technology Exchange
Chair: Wolfgang Wadsak (OGNMB)

Maria Rentetzi (FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany): Diamonds, x-rays, and colonialism: How x-rays moved from the medical practice to the diamond mining industry and back

Sandra Klos (OeAW, Vienna): The role of women in early nuclear medicine. Some preliminary findings and discussion points

Mohamed Elsayed (FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany): Ionizing Radiation in Medicine Under War: Trafficking Medical Radiological Equipment to Ukraine's War Zone

Coffee break

Session Three: Safety Issues, Radiation Protection, and the Pharma Industry (hybrid session)
Chair: Maria Rentetzi (FAU)

Kaori Iida (Graduate University for the Advanced Studies, SOKENDAI, Hayama, Japan (online)): Nuclear Medicine and the Bombs: How the new field was developed in Japan and in whose bodies

Hein Brookhuis (KU Leuven & SCK CEN, Belgium (online)): From Big Science to Big Pharma – the development of nuclear medicine at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (1990–2020)

Mahdi Khelfaoui (Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Canada (online)): Tracing the uses of isotopes in scientific and medical communities (1913–1965): A bibliometric approach

Aske Hennelund Nielsen (FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany): From Radiology to a World-In-Crisis: Rolf Sievert and the re-orientation of the International Radiation Protection Commission in the Post-War Period

Short break

Concluding Discussion


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