Glove Boxes, Radiation Protection, and the International Atomic Energy Agency

Maria Rentetzi

In a nuclear laboratory, a glove box is a windowed, sealed container equipped with two flexible gloves that allow the user to manipulate nuclear materials from the outside in an ostensibly safe environment. As a routine laboratory device, it invites neglect from historians and storytellers of science. Yet, since especially the Gulf War, glove boxes have put the interdependence of science, diplomacy, and politics into clear relief. Standing at the intersection of history of science and international history, technological materials and devices such as the glove box can provide penetrating insight into the role of international diplomatic organizations to the global circulation and control of scientific knowledge. The focus here is on the International Atomic Energy Agency.

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Photo credit: IAEA