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Atomic Energy Lab

chemistry set

In the early 1950s, A. C. Gilbert’s toy company produced the U-238 Atomic Energy Lab, a science kit complete with four types of uranium ore, instruments like a spinthariscope and geiger counter for detecting radiation content, and instructions for using the set’s contents in experiments. The toy company offered the Atomic Energy Lab for just a year at a hefty $50.00 per set. According to his autobiography, Gilbert developed the U-238 Atomic Energy Lab with guidance from “the country’s best nuclear physicists and worked closely with M.I.T. in its development.” Gilbert promoted his science kit as the U.S. government tried to convince Americans that atomic energy would safely power American homes of the future. Given that what Americans knew of atomic energy the might be summed up in words like Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and atomic plague, it was not an easy sell. Gilbert’s atomic energy kit assured parents that the atomic substances were not harmful and that boys (not yet girls) who experimented with science could expect promising careers in chemistry, nuclear energy, and related fields. As Gilbert lauded careers in atomic energy, the U.S. government used several means to promote peaceful uses of atomic power. In the 1950s, President Eisenhower established an Atoms for Peace program and convinced Disney Studios to develop the film “Our Friends the Atom,” in which Walt Disney himself proclaims “The atom is our future.”

  • Manufacturer: A. C. Gilbert Company
  • Material: cardboard
  • Object ID: 117.756
  • Credit Line: Gift of John E. and Eileen O. Jungbluth
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