At last, months late, the clinic was complete and we could begin
a new examination of the children of the Nagasaki bomb, checking
for the first time for effects of radiation exposure during pregnancy.
We had identified seventeen survivors for the critical study, chil-
dren whose mothers had been pregnant with them when the bomb
11: 02 A.M.
on August 9, 1945. And their mothers had
been close to the hypocenter, so close that they had developed the
triad of unmistakable signs of radiation sickness: loss of hair from
the scalp, painful lesions in the mouth and throat, and reddish-
purple skin lesions.
I was in the small examining room.
was early May 1951. A nurse
escorted in a young mother and her five-year-old son. With one
glance, I knew I was seeing for the first time the terrible effect that
an atomic bomb can have on the unborn. I concealed my feelings
and proceeded with a routine pediatric examination. Finally, tape
measure in hand, I confirmed the reduced head size. His erratic and
uncontrolled behavior was evidence that mental retardation was also
These were the very symptoms we had expected on the basis of
what was known about incidental radiation exposure to the fetuses of
mothers being treated for cancer. But that did not lessen the impact
of seeing this first case among the survivors of the Nagasaki bomb.
Four other pediatricians were working with me on the clinical ex-
aminations. We conferred repeatedly, trying to be sure that we had