In this episode of My Nuclear Life, Shelly Lesher interviews Aimee Slaughter. Aimee has spent many years studying radium and its medical applications, and she earned her PhD in science, technology, and medicine. The interview begins with Aimee taking the listeners through an overview of the history of radium and its medical applications. When it first came out, people saw it as a miracle cure. Radium was a less scary cure for diseases such as cancer that gave people a new kind of hope. Radium also helped modernize hospitals and bring in new scientific technologies.
Shelly then asks Aimee to share about the discovery of radium and how people responded to it. Radium was not something that could simply be mined out of the ground, but needed a long process. This resulted in radium being rare and expensive. Aimee goes on to explain that when radium was first discovered, it was very popular and lots of people were interested in using it for a number of different things. One such group was radium therapists who used radium in their medical practices
Next, Shelly moves the conversation to a radium therapy called Liquid Sunshine that was used in the 1900’s by William Morton. This theory believed that if sun is good for you on the outside, it must be good for you on the inside. The therapy was conducted by injecting radium into the body and then activating it. Aimee explains how many people thought this would have positive effects on health. However, people began to quickly discover the negative long and short term effects of internal radium therapy, which brought the Liquid Sunshine therapy to an end.
While some therapies like Liquid Sunshine were harmful, hospitals began to collaborate with scientists and physicists to bring radium into hospitals in safe ways. Scientists had a huge impact on this by helping give doctors the right equipment to use radium in a safe and effective way. Aimee also goes on to point out how there were many influential women scientists who played a part in bringing new radium technology into the hospitals. Aimee and Shelly conclude the podcast by pointing out the different ways radium therapy has helped shape the modern technology in our hospitals today.
Aimee Slaughter earned her Ph.D. in the Department of Science, Technology and Medicine at the Univeristy of Minnesota. Her expertise is Radium Therapy in America from 1898 - 1939. Aimee is currently the Museum Educator at Los Alamos Historical Society.
Special thanks: Lexie Weghorn
Production costs for this episode provided though National Science Foundation Grant PHY-1713816.