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Joshua McGuffie

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

I am a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at UCLA. My research focuses on intersections between biology, medicine, race, and the environment during the US atomic project. I follow doctors and scientists from the Medical Section of the Manhattan Project as they researched the biological effects of radiation across the US West, Japan, and occupied Pacific. A story about the mechanics of how scientific expertise can become entangled in political ends, my dissertation interacts with US Cold War historiographies, narratives about science and indigeneity, and questions of field work and colonialism. For my MA at Oregon State University, I studied ecologists at the Hanford Site along the banks of the Columbia River, where the US produced most of its weapons grade plutonium. My work has made me passionate about environmental justice and ecological restoration.

This research has taken me to nuclear installations across the western United States, from Hanford to Los Alamos.

I have been an instructor in the History department at Loyola Marymount University and teach in the Urban & Environmental Policy department at Occidental College.

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


US History; Environmental History in the US and the Pacific; History of the US West; History of biology; history of medicine.


Book Chapters

2022 “The First Accounts of Radiation Sickness” in Making the Unseen Visible: Science and the Contested Histories of Radiation Exposure, eds. Jacob Darwin Hamblin and Linda Richards, Oregon State University Press (manuscript in preparation)

2021 “Engineering Spaces for the Biological Effects of Fission” in Nature Remade: Engineering Life, Envisioning Worlds, eds. Luis Campos, Michael Dietrich, Tiago Saraiva, Christian Young (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2021)


2021 Review of Genay, Lucie. Land of Nuclear Enchantment: A New Mexican History of the Nuclear Weapons Industry. H-War, H-Net Reviews. March, 2021.

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

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

2018 “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.

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

2018 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