Concepts, Cooperation, and Boundaries

Nuclear Medicine Research in Austria during the Cold War

This project reveals new insights into the epistemes, practices, and the formation of this recent discipline. It analyzes the influence of Austrian research institutions, their networks as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency at the time of the Cold War. What is new about the project is that the development of this field at the interface of natural scientific research, technological innovation, and clinical practice is explored on the level of concepts, methods, and (disciplinary) boundary work. The relevance of the project stems from the integrative role played by Austrian nuclear physicians, the communication infrastructure they established on both sides of the Iron Curtain, and the lasting impact they had on the European research landscape. The emerging field of nuclear medicine research faced the challenge of positioning itself internationally between East and West, taking advantage of the geopolitical periphery and the neutrality of the republic to establish itself as a “bridge-builder” and equal partner on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

Project Heads: Johannes Mattes, Cécile Philippe (MedUni Wien)
Collaborator: Sandra Klos
Funding: Bader Preis für die Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften (ÖAW/Bader Philanthropies, USA)
Duration: 2021/04/01 – 2022/03/31

Introduction to the project in German

Realization of the project in connection with the Commission for the History and Philosophy of Sciences and the Division of Nuclear Medicine, Department of Biomedical Imaging and Image-guided Therapy at the Medical University of Vienna.

Photo: Herbert Vetter, Karl Fellinger, and Rudolf Höfer (from left to right) at the Second Medical Clinic of the University of Vienna (1954). Thyroid examination with radioactive iodine in the 1950s (right), © Prof. Rudolf Höfer (Vienna).