Beyond the Lucky Dragon

Jacob Darwin Hamblin and Linda M. Richards, “Beyond the Lucky Dragon: Japanese Scientists and Fallout Discourse in the 1950s,” Historia Scientiarum 25:1 (2015), 36-56.

Hamblin Richards Lucky Dragon 2015


In the history of the 1950s fallout controversy, associated with the first hydrogen bomb tests, scholars often focus on the plight of the Japanese crew of the Fukuryū Maru, or as it was called in English-language newspapers, the Lucky Dragon. Doing so silences the Japanese who tried to show that fallout was not simply about one ship, one part of the ocean, or even one generation of humans. In this essay we show how Japanese perspectives influenced several American scientists to think differently about the implications of nuclear tests for humans and the natural environment. We propose three fundamental conceptual points about fallout that already were present in Japanese scientific discourse in the mid-1950s. One was spatial; one was temporal; one was legal. The Japanese ideas, from a range of scientists, informed the views of American scientists during the fallout controversy of the 1950s, not just providing data but shaping both scientific and political discourse in the West.