Industry & Science
Human Radiation Experiments
The Boston Project in the early 1950s included the use of radioactive strontium, polonium, radium, and uranium. Between 1953 and 1957, 11 terminally ill patients at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston were injected with uranium as part of an experimental program sponsored by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. All the patients received high doses of uranium. As a result their physical conditions worsened and most of them died. The experiments were conducted by Dr. William Sweet, a neurosurgeon who had received his degree from Harvard Medical School. The objective of the program was two-fold. First, it was an opportunity to learn about the effects of uranium on human subjects, so that information could be used in improving safety standards among workers engaged in projects involving nuclear energy. Second, the experiments were conducted to determine if uranium would localize in the brain, allowing it to be used to treat cancer. As a result, Sweet received the prestigious Harvey Cushing Medal from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.