What They Learned about Radiation After the Bomb

Within six weeks after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, three US and two Japanese teams studied the impact of radiation. The Japanese wanted to know the medical effects on survivors. The American’s wanted to know how and why people died from the blast. The Americans gathered information for a few months and left. Later, President Harry Truman approved a broader research effort. What they learned about radiation after the atom bomb blasts and what we continue to learn affects all of us today.

The yellow and black symbol for radiation danger.

The ABCC and the RERF

The National Research Council formed and funded The Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) to study the medical and biological effects of radiation after the A-bomb. They hoped to produce useful data for peacetime uses of atomic energy.

By 1950 the ABCC employed 143 allied and 920 Japanese personnel in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Unfortunately, the ABCC did not help the Japanese they studied. Signs and magazines were in English. Linoleum floors caused pregnant Japanese women wearing traditional wooden clogs to slip and fall. They didn’t offer or give medical treatments. And they offered little or no compensation for lost work to their study participant.

Over time, the hibakusha (atom bomb survivors) lost faith in the ABCC. The Atomic Energy Commission planned to withdraw their support. An appeal by an American geneticist gained the organization time and funds. But it wasn’t enough.

In April 1975, they established a new binational organization run by both the United States and Japan. And the ABCC became the Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF). 

The Participants

A 1950 census had helped identify 280,000 hibakusha all over Japan.

The ABCC recruited about 75,000 hibakusha who still lived in Hiroshima or Nagasaki. The participants included men and women of all ages. 

Later, the ABCC recruited an additional 20,000 to 25,000 participants.

The organization intended to follow these people for decades.

Calculating Exposure

Scientists put an enormous effort into estimating each person’s exposure level. Select survivors gave detailed information about where they were when the bomb hit. They collected copper from temple roofs at various distances from the hypocenter. Using mass spectrometry, they measured an isotope to help them estimate the amount of radiation. In 1957 and 1958, Oak Ridge National Laboratory built typical Japanese houses at the Nevada Test Site. After atomic bomb tests, they measured radiation inside and out of the buildings.

They interviewed 28,000 survivors in the 1960s. Information gathered included the survivor’s exact position, standing, sitting, direction faced, exact location within the building, and the building’s construction materials. 

Researchers used the information to calculate the dosage of radiation each survivor received. They refined the information again in the 1980s. This time they identified the radiation dosage at individual organ levels.

Possible Birth Defects

The possible effect of radiation on survivor’s children was one of the ABCC’s immediate concerns. Babies already conceived in August had small head sizes at birth. And studies done on fruit flies suggested that irradiation of adults caused heritable genetic changes and defects in offspring.

The ABCC enrolled more than 60,000 expectant mothers into their research program. (See Science Magazine’s site for details gathered during the study.) Births between 1948 and 1952 showed no correlation between parental exposure and birth defects, birth weights, or stillbirths. Unexpectedly they learned that the sex of the baby appeared to be affected by the gender of the irradiated parent. If the mother was a survivor, the likelihood of her having a daughter increased. Irradiation of the father appeared to increase the number of baby boys.

What They Learned About Radiation

image of an atom

According to Science Magazine, the ABCC/ RERF learned a lot about radiation from the atom bomb survivors. Below are some of the lessons listed by that magazine.

The younger an individual was at the time of the bombings, the greater their risk of developing cancer. The higher the dose of radiation, the higher the percentage of cancer deaths. But the risk decreased over a survivor’s lifetime.

Women were at higher risk of developing radiation-associated cancer. They believe that was largely because of additional cases of breast cancer.

Women exposed to bomb radiation at the age of her first menstruation had a higher risk of developing breast or uterine cancer later in life than those exposed before or after puberty.

Radiation most increased the risk of leukemia among survivors. Especially among those whose exposure came from near the hypocenter.

It also increased the risk of cancer of the stomach, lung, liver, and breast. Exposure also heightened the risk of heart failure and stroke, asthma, bronchitis, and gastrointestinal conditions.

How We Use What They Learned

Medical personnel, astronauts, and radiation researchers, among others, wear dosimeters. These little badges register how much radiation exposure the wearer receives. They base the recommended limits for these workers on the ABCC/RERF organization’s research.

The shielded rooms and aprons for X-rays and chemotherapy are also thanks in part to the atom bomb radiation research.

They also learned how radiation damages human cells. Read RERF’s explanation.

Have We Really Learned?

image of four hands with different skin colors clasping each other's wrists

Radiation is useful in medicine and in dating ancient objects. But did we learn our lesson about radiation as a weapon?

Time has passed. Almost 70% of the participants from Hiroshima and Nagasaki have died. The rest are in their 80s and 90s. The RERF will follow each of them until the last one dies. But the organization will continue to research the biological and medical effects of radiation for years beyond that time.

But even in Japan, people are forgetting. Once there are no more A-bomb survivors, will there be no more memories of the horror of the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Will what they learned about radiation after the A-bomb be enough to keep us all from dropping another bomb, a bigger bomb, on another city? Let us pray for a lasting peace. More than that, we must work to attain peace. A peace that never fears a bomb of any kind.

How to Create a Safe Place in Your Mind

For most people, home is your safe place during this pandemic. But after three or four weeks of isolation, home may become more than a little claustrophobic. If the hubby, the kids, the roommate, or the same four walls are getting you down, create a safe place in your mind. How? Read on.

pensive woman wants to teach you how to create a safe place in your mind

A Little Privacy

Find a place where you can be comfortable and alone for ten to fifteen minutes. You may wish to set a timer.

Got little ones? No problem. Take two minutes. It will take more practice to get that to that safe place when you use a shorter time period, but you can do it.

Places or Activities 

To Create your safe place you might visualize a beach like the white sands and blue waters of this photo.

Make a list, mental or written, of the simple activities that replenishes you. Any activity that makes you happy or tranquil. Examples are: laughing, singing, sleeping, drawing, reading poems or quotes, or even walking or running.

Also, make a list of places that make you happy. It could be a favorite vacation spot, a place you dream of visiting, or it could be when you’re in the swimming pool, or perhaps curled up in front of a fireplace. If it’s an activity, which muscles do you use? How do they feel?

List whatever comes to mind. These lists will be as unique as you are.

Pick One and Add Details

Create a safe place in your mind by visualizing you jogging or doing an activity you enjoy.

Which one activity or place makes you feel the happiest or the most tranquil?

Once you’ve decided on one thing, write out (or draw) all the details of that place or activity. It’s it warm or cold? Day or night? What do you smell? Hear? Can you touch it? See it? What do you taste?

Be as specific as you can. Instead of “lots of trees,” describe the trees. Do you see pine trees? Oak leaves? Do you hear the wind in the leaves or are all the leaves on the ground?


Take a seat. Get comfortable, whatever that means to you. Close your eyes, if that will help decrease distractionsfor you.

Breathe. In through your nose, out through your mouth. Big, slow, even breaths. And as you blow out, relax your muscles. This may also take practice, but five breaths usually will be enough.

Create a Safe Place

In your mind’s eye, build that activity or place. Every detail. And see yourself there and feel the sensations of those details. Walk around the place or mentally perform the activity.

Let the mental image recreate that peaceful or happy feeling. Stay there as long as you can. You may have to work up to holding the mental image for a full ten or fifteen minutes

Some recommend that you name this place. Then after enough practice, when you wish to recall this image you can do it by saying the name.

Visualizing Doesn’t Always Work

Recently scientists discovered that some people have a “blind mind’s eye.” These people have no visual memory and cannot use visuals to imagine something. They use words to describe the visual. Scientists have named this condition, aphantasia.

So how do you find a safe place if you can’t visualize one? You don’t have to visualize it. List the words, the phrases, the emotions you connect with that object or activity. If that doesn’t connect you with that peaceful or happy feeling, try looking at a picture of the place or activity. Try music or poetry. It may take you a little longer to achieve that relaxed state of being safe, but you can do it. And with practice it will get quicker and easier.

More than One

You can make as many safe places as you need. Try different methods of finding your safe place. You might listen to music or the sounds of nature. If you have a treadmill or a yard to be your track, use it. Draw or paint. Sing. Play an instrument. It’s okay not to be visual.

Some Are Not Safe

Folks, we need to be checking on each other. If you know your neighbor is single, leave them a “thinking about you note.” Maybe have a safe chat—six feet apart. Some folk are doing neighborhood cocktail hours in their driveways or on their decks.

If you are not safe in your home, please call or text or online chat with someone. If you’re in the U.S. and you’re in trouble or need help, text SAFE and your current location (address, city, state) to 4HELP (44357) for immediate help. Or call and speak to a councilor on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 If you live outside the U.S. Wikipedia has a list of national crisis lines you can call. Find yours.


Why find your safe place in your mind? One, because while home is the safest place you can be during a pandemic, one can also feel trapped. Two, sometimes the outside situation can overwhelm us. Finding a way to recover feelings of safety and tranquility is one tool in a good mental health first aid kit. Three—because even introverts, even people with large families, even the unflappable can get flapped when the outside world doesn’t feel safe. Be safe, everyone. Be well. And please, leave a comment below. Let me know how you’re doing.

With Words, She Made a Difference

This week’s woman of peace is author Lydia Maria Child (1802-1880). One of the most influential American women writers from the 1820s through the 1860s she was a prolific author, a literary pioneer, and a tireless crusader and champion for America’s excluded groups. With words, she made a difference. 

Image of Lydia Marie Child reading a book. Perhaps one of her. With words, she made a difference.
Public Domain Image of Lydia Maria Child

Early Life

Born on February 11, 1802 in Medford, Massachusetts, she was the youngest of six children. Her father, Convers Francis, was stern and religiously orthodox. Susannah (Rand) Francis, her mother, was ill and distant. Her mother died when Lydia was twelve. 

After her mother’s death, they sent Lydia to live with a married sister in Maine. Norridgewock, a frontier society, exposed Lydia to a small community of impoverished Abenaki and Penobscot Indians. 

Lydia moved back to Massachusetts at nineteen. She lived with her brother Convers, a scholarly Unitarian minister. Her brother guided her education in literary masters such as Homer and Milton.

She reportedly hated the name Lydia. So when she converted to Unitarism and was re-baptised, she gave herself the name of Maria. She chose to go by Maria  (Ma-RYE-a) from then on.

Early Career

Lydia read an article in the North American Review discussing the field offered to the novelist by early New England history. That inspired her to start her first novel. She finished it in six weeks. 

Her debut novel, Hobomok, A Tale of Early Times  published in 1884 was the first New England historical novel written. She turned the usual view of the Puritans on its ear with a female protagonist who lived in early Salem and rebelled against the religious and racial bigotry of the time. The character first married “an Indian by whom she has a son, and later an Episcopalian.” Initially, the scandalous interracial marriage earned fire from the critics, but due to a patron from Boston, she became an overnight success.

Her first children’s book, Evenings in New England. Intended for Juvenile Amusement and Instruction, appeared in 1824. Written as a series of educational conversations between Aunt Maria and her two children, it focused on American issues and values. It was critically acclaimed and an instant success. 

Her second novel, The Rebels, or Boston before the Revolution(1825), tells a pre-revolutionary story of women from Boston. “The North American Review described the author as overwhelmed by her imaginative powers and accused her of filling the pages of her short book with enough plots to serve a dozen novels.” (Read more.)

In 1826, she edited and published the first American children’s magazine, The Juvenile Miscellany

She wrote several novels, poetry, and an instruction book for mothers, The Mothers Book.

In 1829, she published her most successful book: The Frugal Housewife. Dedicated to those who are not ashamed of Economy. It was the first book of its type aimed at women who did not have the money for housekeepers and leisure activities.


A brilliant but erratic Boston lawyer and journalist, David Lee Child caught her eye with a kind review of her second novel. His idealism and his enthusiastic promotion of her writings in the columns of his Whig newspaper, the Massachusetts Journal, charmed her. 

They married in 1828 and moved to Boston. But David’s writing was so fast and loose he earned the nickname of David Libel Child. 

Their lives were a constant struggle to pay his legal costs and debts. Lydia wrote and also took in boarders and taught school to support them.


In the early 1830s, Lydia and her husband met William Lloyd Garrison and joined his band of antislavery reformers.

She published An Appeal for that Class of Americans called Africans in 1833. In it, she portrayed the evils of slavery and blamed both the North and the South for its existence. She argued in favor of the emancipation of slaves without compensation to slaveholders. And she defended interracial marriage again. “The book was influential in winning recruits to the anti-slavery cause.” (Read more).

“She is often identified as the first white woman to have written a book in support of this policy.” (Per Wikipedia)

While abolitionists extolled the wonders of her book, the general public did not. Sales of all her books suffered. Cancellations of subscriptions to her children’s magazine, The Juvenile Miscellany forced her to give up her editor position on the magazine.

She published four more antislavery books, including The Oasis (1834), a gift book. The purpose of the book was “to familiarize the public mind with the idea that colored people are human beings–elevated or degraded by the same circumstances that elevate or degrade other men.” (Read more.)

A social outcast, she continued writing and editing the Anti-Slavery Standard. By 1842 she had “transformed it from a dry partisan organ into a first-rate “family newspaper.”” Its circulation now doubled that of The Liberator, and even Child’s severest critics admitted that the paper was converting many people to the abolitionist cause.” 

Life After the Civil War

After the Civil War, Lydia worked on behalf of the rights of freed slaves. She published a collection of slaves’ experiences in The Freedman’s Book (1865). She also returned to her early interest in the rights of Native Americans. Appeal for Indians (1868). She wrote collections of poems, biographies, histories, and more.  (see her bibliography.)

In 1844, she wrote a poem of twelve stanzas. The poem, “The New-England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Dayexpressed memories of Lydia’s childhood visits to her grandfather’s house. We know a portion of the poem today as the song, “Over the River and Through the Woods.”  

She died in Wayland, Massachusetts, on October 20, 1880, at age 78.

Image of the tombstone of Lydia Maria Child, a woman who with words, she made a difference
Public Domain Image

Lydia Maria Child was a woman with a mission. She wrote the first New England historical novel, the first comprehensive history of American slavery, and the first comparative history of women. In addition, she edited the first American children’s magazine, compiled an early primer for the freed slaves, and published the first book designed for the elderly. 

If you liked this woman of peace, you might like Nonviolent, She Made a Difference and The First Female Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Lydia Maria Child did not use violence and did not advocate for the Civil War. She was one of the first people to influence political and societal changes through stories and poems. With words, she made a difference.