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Nuclink: Journal of Current Radiation and Public Health Issues

Volume 1, Number 5
July 18, 1999
Published by RPHP
PO Box 60 Unionville, NY 10988
Editor: Joseph Mangano

A Note on Karl Morgan, John Gofman, Andrei Sakharov, and Ernest Sternglass
By Jay M. Gould, Director
Radiation and Public Health Project

Dr. Karl Z. Morgan's recent death at the age of 91saddened those who knew him as the first Manhattan Project scientist charged with the task of developing "safe" standards for radiation exposure.

He spent three decades in that search as the Health Physics Director at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, only to discover and finally acknowledge that there was no radiation level that could be deemed safe.

Since such a conclusion, if accepted, would terminate the postwar development of nuclear technology, most of his work in this area was withheld by the AEC from public knowledge. After retirement he joined Dr. John Gofman and Dr. Ernest Sternglass as the only authoritative radiation physicists willing to offer such testimony in litigation.

I was once astonished to be asked by an editor of the Journal of the American Medical Society to review an article by KZM on the role of health physics, a discipline which he had founded with high hopes in the early years of the Nuclear Age. The article--which was never published despite my enthusiastic praise-- made the simple point that in his view the sole current function of health physicists was "to deny compensation to radiation victims."

Fortunately, before his death Dr. Morgan had just completed writing his autobiography, published by the University of Oklahoma Press, entitled The Angry Genie: One Man's Walk through the Nuclear Age, written with Ken Peterson, an eminent trial attorney. This small book should be preserved in a time capsule to explain to our descendants, if any, how the Nuclear Establishment tried in the second half of the 20th century to destroy the prospects for the continued viability of life on earth.

In the course of his long tenure at Oak Ridge, Morgan describes how he and a staff of 200 ecologists were able to develop hundreds of reports containing

...a wealth of experience on such matters as problems of handling radioactive materials, radiation ecology, radioactive waste disposal, radiation monitoring ...which summarized the results of millions of dollars of research funded by the American taxpayer… All these reports were placed under lock and key in a special section of the ORNL library.

As only a few examples of the information thus withheld from public view, Morgan describes how much they learned about the ecological status of the White Oak Lake system which received all the Oak Ridge liquid discharges.

Fish in White Oak Lake (as well as the many life forms they depended on for food) took up selectively certain radionuclides. A particularly alarming finding was that the body organs of some species of fish concentrated Sr-90 by a factor of 10,000!

I found quite terrifying his discovery that a worm found in the Lake sediment, called chirojomus tentan, had only 3 chromosomes in its salivary gland instead of the expected 4. He states:

It gave me the jitters when I realized that in our five-year study these worms had passed through 120 generations. For human beings, 120 generations would take us back to 2000 BC.

We must wonder how the chromosomal composition of humans exposed to radiation in the 20th century will develop in the next 120 generations.

Throughout his life Morgan never lost his faith that ultimately the truth about the health effects of radiation would be recognized, and that future generations--if not our own--would save humankind from the Angry Nuclear Genie. We are truly fortunate that his book has been published so that his great wisdom can be passed on.

It makes me mindful of the need to preserve the works of such great nuclear whistle blowers as Morgan, Gofman and Sternglass.

For example, rat haus has available on the web an electronic version of the 1981 McGraw Hill edition of Secret Fallout: From Hiroshima to Three Mile Island and we have a pointer to this site(click on the underlined text to go there). But I wonder if anyone takes the trouble to print out the full text, and bind it so that it can be preserved in book form. It is very hard to find a publisher today with the courage to publish a book on the dangers of nuclear radiation, as noted below.

I read Secret Fallout in 1981 to inform myself about the nuclear industry, about which I knew very little at that time. As a statistical expert in litigation, I had been engaged by Westinghouse in a suit against an alleged worldwide uranium cartel, to discover why the price of uranium had risen six-fold in the 1970s. This had resulted in a billion dollar loss to Westinghouse, having contracted to supply uranium to nuclear utility companies at a fixed price (see The Enemy Within: The High Cost of Living Near Nuclear Reactors).

As a result of reading the chapter entitled "The Minds of Children" in Secret Fallout, my own life was completely turned around. Here Sternglass describes how he noted that sharp declines in SAT scores in the 1970s appeared to be correlated with large above-ground nuclear bomb tests 18 years earlier. He therefore was able to predict in 1979 that such declines would end in the 1980s, when the SAT exams would be taken by children born after the cessation of above-ground bomb tests in 1963.

I remember thinking that the validity of a scientific hypothesis should rest on its ability to predict future events, and I resolved that this was something worth pursuing.

I had the same conviction reading in Andrei Sakharov's Memoirs, (Knopf, 1990) that in 1958 he was able to predict that the Sr-90 in the fallout from aboveground hydrogen bomb tests would result in millions of world-wide premature deaths and that the man-made radiation would accelerate the mutation of microorganisms that would result in future immune-deficiency diseases. I have been able to document the accuracy of this prediction.

Thus my own contributions to the analysis of the health effects of low-level radiation stem from being able to enjoy the benefits of a free press, which the Nuclear Establishment certainly seems not to encourage.

I later learned from Sternglass that the copy of Secret Fallout that I had bought in 1981 was one of about 6,000 copies sold by McGraw-Hill, without informing Sternglass that they suddenly decided to cease further distribution.

Since he retained the copyright, he offered the book for translation into German to Petra Kelly, who was then starting the German Green Party. This edition sold well, and the royalties helped the German Green Party grow. This party today is part of the governing coalition, now beginning the phase-out all German nuclear reactors early next century.

It is also interesting to note that we have been trying for months to locate used copies of the McGraw-Hill edition. In searching some 3,500 book dealers on the web we have only been able to locate one copy.

I have just persuaded Dr. Sternglass to add two more chapters to Secret Fallout, so that its subtitle will now read From Hiroshima to Chernobyl. I hope that some courageous publisher reading this will realize that this new edition could be the Silent Spring of the next century.

Dr. Jay M. Gould

Order a copy of The Angry Genie.

What others have said about Karl Morgan's book The Angry Genie

The following reviews are from the Amazon book site
Click here to connect to Amazon

This is a book about a true American hero. I just finished reading The Angry Genie! I could not put the book down as each chapter was so informative and intriguing. The glossary enabled me to understand the health physics terms Morgan uses. I had no idea of the magnitude of this man's life and his impact on our nation. I was challenged by the wisdom, honesty, integrity and boldness of Karl Morgan to stand up for the truth. I love history and found the photographs and documentation in the book very interesting. Everyone should read this book to be informed about the implications of the nuclear age.

Debbie Ochs
Wichita Ks
June 13, 1999

The Angry Genie is a must read. It is commonly understood that only the best books are made into audio tapes. On a whim my family and I put the Angry Genie to the test. We read the book aloud on our annual cross country car trip without one complaint from any family member. The surprise attraction of the Angry Genie is its real appeal to the non scientific person. By just glancing through the book one might assume that he or she could be overwhelmed with scientific material, however, by no means is that the case. In the 180 pages of story, from the amazing experiments under Chicago University Stadium to the many photos of actual players in our history, I was drawn to the personalities and inside details of the developments of a powerful scientific discovery. In fact I most recommend this book because if the surprising revelations on several fronts.

  • First, the power and importance of science and scientists in this century is no more dramatically illustrated than in this story of nuclear power. Not even the terror of 'Outbreak" or the suspense of 'Apollo 13" are equal to the reawakening we get in the Angry Genie.
  • Second, Dr. Morgan was able to input all of the required technical information and formulas in the book without interrupting the book's flow.
  • Third, the historical, medical and sociological impact is compelling. There is the letter from Einstein to FDR about the potential of the bomb and the fascinating information about the effects of all the different types of rays on humans.

I plan on telling my book club about this wonderful book as well as all my friends who love historical books.

Loretta Van Westen
Houston Texas
July 7, 1999

The true story of an unsung hero who saved countless lives. I was captivated by Karl Z. Morgan's 50 year battle with powerful elements in the nuclear industrial complex for common sense safety measures. I was appalled to discover the extent of the damage the government inflicted upon our citizens through the abuse of nuclear power and and careless weapons' tests. Even more disturbing is Morgan's summary of numerous radiation experiments our government secretly conducted on innocent Americans. Morgan stands out as a pillar of truth in a desert of deceit. No one can read this without thinking "I had no idea this was going on."

Cepryane Fofana
New York City
June 25, 1999

A man of faith becomes a world famous scientist. I really enjoyed this story about a good human being who descended from a long line of Lutheran ministers going back to Martin Luther. It required considerable courage for Dr. Karl Morgan to publicly detail the "biggest mistake" of his life when he reluctantly agreed to censorship by his superiors. This book was clearly written from Morgan's soul and provides valuable perspective from a 91-year-old legend who started the entire field of health physics. This autobiography should be required reading for all Americans.

Michelle Holloway
Fort Worth Texas
June 25, 1999

This is an informative book about a fascinating person. I learned so much reading this book! As a young adult during WWII, I identified with our nation's effort to defeat Germany and Japan. Dr. Karl Morgan, the "Father of Health Physics" offers some disturbing insights into what he considers the Truman Administration's greatest mistake-- concealing information from President Truman to assure that Hiroshima and Nagasaki would be bombed. Morgan was a contemporary of Einstein and Fermi and was responsible for safety on the Manhattan Project. My generation will appreciate this historical work. Younger generations must read this book so we don't repeat the same mistakes.

Nancy Ashby
Searchy Arkansas
June 20, 1999

A memoir about an honest and profound thinker. This is a wonderful story and one that needs to be told. I can see great chunks of this book being made into various movies. What rings true throughout the book is the loving and sincere character of Dr. Morgan. This is a book that will make people think. In a word, I believe in this book.

Carolyn Wall
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
June 19, 1999