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This biography illuminates the life and achievements of the remarkable woman scientist who revolutionized the concept of radiation risk.
In the 1950s Alice Stewart began research that led to her discovery that fetal X rays double a child's risk of developing cancer. Two decades later---when she was in her seventies---she again astounded the scientific world with a study showing that the U.S. nuclear weapons industry is about twenty times more dangerous than safety regulations permit. This finding put her at the center of the international controversy over radiation risk. In 1990, the New York Times called Stewart "perhaps the Energy Department's most influential and feared scientific critic."
The Woman Who Knew Too Much traces Stewart's life and career from her early childhood in Sheffield to her medical education at Cambridge to her research positions at Oxford University and the University of Birmingham.
Gayle Greene is Professor of Women's Studies and Literature, Scripps College.
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In 1956, British physician Alice Stewart discovered that exposing a fetus to a single diagnostic X-ray doubles the risk of an early death from cancer. As this spirited biography demonstrates, Stewart's subsequent dedication to investigating the effects of radiation turned her into a kind of guru to the antinuclear movement. In 1974-1977, her study of U.S. nuclear workers at the Hanford weapons complex in Washington State found that workers had a greater risk of developing cancer if exposed to radiation well below one-tenth of the "safe" level stipulated by international standards. According to Greene, the Atomic Energy Commission attempted to seize Stewart's data, and her funding was cut off. Yet her controversial findings, published in 1977, have momentous implications because, as Stewart explains, "If we are correct, occupational safety standards will have to be changed and it will open the floodgates to claims from workers, veterans and downwinders." Greene, a professor at Scripps College, also sets forth Stewart's provocative, still untested theory that sudden infant death syndrome masks myeloid leukemia. Stewart's varied personal life included conducting an affair with literary critic/poet William Empson, raising two children as a single parent and enduring her son's suicide. Greene calls this a "collaborative memoir," because she lets Stewart, 93, speak for herself whenever possible. Yet Greene also uses this blunt, feisty woman's career to mount a compelling critique of the nuclear industry and the medical establishment. 31 b&w photos. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Alice Stewart led the research effort that identified the cancer-causing effects of X-rays in pregnancy. A medical doctor, she worked at a time when women were still a rarity in the field and not well accepted. During World War II, she became the first assistant to the chair of the newly created Institute of Social Medicine, out of which came the X-ray study and its critical findings. When the chairman died in 1950, the institute was closed rather than continued under Stewart's direction, an indication of the lack of professional esteem for both Stewart and the field of social medicine. Strongly independent, she continued her radiation studies, bringing her in direct confrontation with the nuclear industry. Although persecuted both professionally and financially for her unpopular positions, Stewart, now in her 90s, says that she's had a "marvelous time." While this biography is sometimes chronologically jumbled and a bit feminist in tone (the author is a professor of women's studies and literature), the subject is a fascinating woman truly deserving of further study. Recommended for most libraries.AHilary Burton, Lawrence Livermore National Lab., CA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description University of Michigan Press, 1999. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # S8-47KF-44M8
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