The Columns

Learning About Hiroshima at ALSOS Digital Library

— by on August 6th, 2012

Today is a somber anniversary: 67 years ago, a nuclear bomb destroyed the Japanese city of Hiroshima. To readily explore that event and the wider world of nuclear issues, there’s ALSOS, a comprehensive digital library on the subject housed at Washington and Lee University.

ALSOS provides “a vetted, annotated bibliography of over 3,000 books, articles, films, CDs, and websites about a broad range of nuclear issues,” says its website. It’s also part of the National Science Foundation’s National Science Digital Library, which supports education and research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and of Nuclear Pathways, related sites about a wide array of nuclear matters.

For example, someone moved to explore today’s anniversary further can enter “Hiroshima” in the ALSOS search engine and receive a lengthy list of books, articles, websites and so on, including an entry for John Hersey’s 1946 classic “Hiroshima,” a nonfiction account of six survivors. In addition to reading the bibliographical entry and the brief description of the item, the reader can click on a link to WorldCat to find out which libraries carry it.

The library is supported by the National Science Digital Library program of the National Science Foundation, the Lenfest Foundation and Gerry Lenfest, a member of the W&L Classes of 1953 and 1955 Law.

W&L students have worked on ALSOS through the University’s R. E. Lee Summer Scholars Program under the guidance of Frank Settle, who just retired as a visiting professor of chemistry. Frank is a principal investigator of the Nuclear Energy Education in the 21st Century Project and director of ALSOS. We interviewed Frank in 2011 after the Japanese earthquake that damaged nuclear reactors; you can listen to that interview and read the article here.