Het Atoom

In the summer of 1957, Amsterdam’s officials and the local Chamber of Commerce put on an exhibit at Schiphol Airport. It was called “Het Atoom,” the atom. As Dutch historian Dick van Lente discovered, the exhibition talked up the new technology. And Panorama magazine (one I know nothing about) featured an article about the show. Van Lente’s description includes the following, which I enjoy as a wonderful example of unfettered optimism:

In a glowing review of the exhibition, Panorama used even stronger rhetoric. While the exhibition simply denied the dangers of radiation and completely ignored nuclear war, the magazine squarely confronted these fears. Echoing president Lilienthal of the American Atomic Energy Commission ten years earlier, the author said that nuclear power was as frightening as fire and electricity had appeared when they were just invented. Still we would not want to miss them now, and so it would go with nuclear power. “The atom is no longer the awful bomb … it is a power for peace, useful in your daily life and everyone else’s. The atom is the world’s fear, while it should be its pride.” Science marched on: “Suddenly, there is a submarine fuelled by atomic energy, a city is lit up and a patient is cured by it.” The small neutrons will bombard our lives and split our existences, Panorama said, boldly reversing these images of fear. “The atomic age is far ahead of its citizens,” who are still the captives of anxiety.

van Lente, Dick, ed. 2012. The Nuclear Age in Popular Media: A Transnational History, 1945-1965. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, pp. 160-161
van Lente book extract

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