This chapter introduces the book’s story, themes, and argument. The role of radioisotopes as tracers was especially important to their widespread utilization in biochemistry, physiology, molecular biology, nuclear medicine, and ecology. The focus of “tracing” also refracts from my historical subjects to my own study: Just as scientists used radioisotopes as tracers to make visible previously inaccessible processes of transformation, this book analyzes the movement of radioisotopes through government facilities, laboratories, and clinics, both in the U.S. and around the world, as a way to make visible key transformations in the material culture and research priorities of postwar biology and medicine.
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