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Joshua McGuffie

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Email    jmcguffi@ucla.edu
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In search of the biolgical effects of radiation in the mid-20th century...

I am a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at UCLA. My research focuses on the doctors and biologists who first studied the biological effects of radiation from the 1920s through the 1960s. Many of them served in the Medical Section of the Manhattan Project. My dissertation moves from pre-bomb biology using x-rays to irradiate animals, to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to the Castle Bravo test disaster and the displacement of the Rongelapese in 1954. For my MA at Oregon State University, I studied ecologists at Hanford, the main US plutonium production site.

This research has taken me to nuclear installations across the western United States, from Hanford to Los Alamos. I was once questioned by sheriff’s deputies just outside the Nevada Test Site. My research focues are history of technology, history of biology, and environmental history.

Visit some of my work, feel free to visit: naturesciencehistory,

To see the blog from my 5000+ mile atomic roadtrip in the Summer of 2016, you can visit: Tracing Atoms, or how I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Atomic Landscapes

I live in my hometown in suburban Los Angeles with my family, with whom I enjoy hiking and camping.

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Field of Study

Science, Medicine, and Technology


History of Technology: History of Biology; Cold War and US Empire; Atomic History, Environmental History in the US and the Pacific; History of the US West


Book Chapters

  • Engineering Spaces for the Biological Effects of Fission” in Nature Remade: Engineering Life, Envisioning Worlds, University of Chicago Press (manuscript in preparation).


  • Planet Earth II: BBC (November 2016–January 2017), Journal of the History of Biology (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10739-019-09575-4.

  • The Nevada Nuclear Test Site, Las Vegas and Mercury, Nevada, The Public Historian 40:4 (November 2018), 139 – 141.

  • The Joy of the Find: A Review of Form and Landscape, by William Deverell and Greg Hise, UCLA Historical Journal 29:1 (2018), 81 – 84.

  • Energy, A Human History, by Richard Rhodes, Science 360:6369 (2018), 1062.

  • Chemical Lands: Pesticides, Aerial Spraying, and Health in North America’s Grasslands since 1945, by David D. Vail, Western Historical Quarterly 49:4 (2018), 483.

Grants and Awards

Participant, The Huntington Library 2019 Residential Institute in the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, 10 – 21 June 2019.

Student, Marine Biological Laboratory – Arizona State University History of Biology Seminar: A Century of Engineering Life: Populations and Ecosystems, 17 – 22 May 2018.

Conference Presentations

City of Angels/City of Atoms: LA's Obscure Atomic Past”

  • Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, ENGINEERING LA: Science and Technology in Southern California, Pasadena, California, March 2019.

“Imaging Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Knowing the Bomb by Knowing the Bodies of its Victims,”

  • Columbia History of Science Group, Friday Harbor, Washington, March 2018

 “New for ‘51: Radiation Monitoring and Novel Atomic Geographies”

  • American Historical Society – Pacific Coast Branch, Northridge, California, August 2017

“Hidden Atomic Loci: Cooperation in Radioecology at the UCLA Atomic Energy Project and the University of Washington Applied Fisheries Laboratory in the 1940s and 1950s”

  • International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology, Sao Paulo, Brazil, July 2017

“No Significant Risk: Creating the Norms for Public Irradiation at Hanford”

  • UC Berkeley Center for Science, Technology, Medicine, and Society “Faking It: Counterfeits, Copies, and Uncertain Truths in Science, Technology and Medicine, April 2015

“A Landscape up for Grabs: How Hanford's Environmental Scientists Recreated Nature at the United States’ most Polluted Place”

  • OSU Library Resident Scholar Presentation, Corvallis, Oregon, October 2014

“Hanford Reach: Ironic Preservation or the Same Old Mission?”

  • Columbia History of Science Group, Friday Harbor, Washington, March 2014


Soraya de Chadarevian, Stephen Aron, Ted Porter, Elizabeth DeLoughrey


BA - UCLA, Geography

MDiv. - Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary

MA - Oregon State University, History of Science