Today in History – November 6, 1944 – Plutonium is first produced at the Hanford Atomic Facility as part of the Manhattan Project, subsequently used in the Fat Man Atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan and bringing an end to World War II. Although nuclear engineering has its roots in weapons of mass destruction, peaceful uses led to the development of medical isotopes, nuclear imaging, cancer treatments and nuclear energy. With the high cost of fossil fuels and the need for energy self-sufficiency there is an interest in rethinking the world’s nuclear energy strategy. As with all technologies, engineers must work with the public to evaluate the ethical and social consequences of any technological development and deployment.
Also on this day in history, New York State is the first eastern state to fully enfranchise women in 1917. Alas we have a long way to go to achieve gender equity in science and engineering as the National Academy’s report titled “Beyond Bias and Barriers” highlighted: Women face barriers to hiring and promotion in research universities in many fields of science and engineering — a situation that deprives the United States of an important source of talent as the country faces increasingly stiff global competition in higher education, science and technology, and the marketplace.