Ethics in Science Lecture Series – The Devil’s Heritage: Masuo Kodani, the “Nisei Problem,” and Social Stratification at the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission in Japan (1946-1954)

When: Wednesday, January 28, 2015

11:00 A.M. – 12:30 P.M.

Where: 232 Philip G Hoffman Hall (click for map)

KodaniSternLIFEThis paper focuses on Masuo Kodani, a Japanese American geneticist best known for his work in the human chromosome story and for his work with human geneticist James V. Neel. It follows his tumultuous career beginning at the University of California, Berkeley and his subsequent incarceration at Manzanar War Relocation Center and at Tule Lake where he, along with a cluster of incarcerated Japanese American scientists, horticulturalists and nursery owners, engaged in a little-known wartime study on guayule, a source of latex, a valuable wartime commodity. The paper follows his subsequent appointment to the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) in Japan, the American agency sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council (NAS-NRC) and funded by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) that conducted research on the survivors of the atomic blasts. It explores at length his dual identity as intermediary between the survivors, and American officials and scientists collecting genetic data. His research and pivotal role in the organization of the Genetics Division is explored in the context of US-Japanese relations that drew on a number of “Nisei” or second generation Japanese Americans many of whom had similarly been interned and who functioned as intermediaries in the organization. The paper concludes with an assessment of Asian minorities in twentieth century in general and Japanese American minorities in particular.

About Professor Vassiliki Betty SmocovitisVassiliki-Smocovitis

Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis is Dunlevie Honors Term Professor in the Honors Program and Professor of the History of Science in the Departments of Biology and the Departments of History at the University of Florida. Her research interests include the history of evolutionary biology, biological anthropology, botany, and genetics in the United States. She is the author of Unifying Biology: The Evolutionary Synthesis and Evolutionary Biology (Princeton, 1996) and has been a recipient of a number of grants and fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Philosophical Society. In 1990-92, she was Mellon Fellow in the Humanities at Stanford University and in 2001 she was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science where she is currently serving on the executive of the society. She has been a recipient of range of awards including the Hazen Educational Award from the History of Science Society, and a Visiting Scholar for Phi Beta Kappa to some nine American colleges and universities and has been awarded six college and university level awards at UF becoming in 2009 the 16th Distinguished Alumni Professor at UF. She has published extensively with articles and reviews appearing in both science and history journals including: Isis, Osiris, Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences, Journal of the History of Biology, History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, American Journal of Botany, Social Epistemology, and Taxon along with Current Anthropology, Science, Nature and the Quarterly Review of Biology. She is currently under contract with the University of Chicago Press for a book exploring minorities in science and the history of genetics in America titled The Black Pearl: Masuo Kodani, Genetics in America, and the Japanese American Experience.

Additional information about the Ethics in Science Lecture Series can be found on the Ethics in Science website.

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