©2012 Robert R Johnson



About Robert R. Johnson

Author of Romancing the Atom: Nuclear Infatuation from the Radium Girls to Fukushima

Dr. Robert Johnson
Listen to the Introduction

Robert R. Johnson is professor of rhetoric, composition, and technical communication in the Humanities Department at Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI. His published works include articles in virtually every major journal in his respective disciplines and the book User-Centered Technology: A Rhetorical Theory for Computers and Other Mundane Artifacts, winner of the 1999 Best Book Award in Scientific and Technical Communication from the National Council of Teachers of English.


Why write this book?

"I started this book project about three years ago, maybe a little more, but really it started a long time before that. I was living in Ohio when it was discovered that there had been a uranium milling site in the middle of the town where I lived—Oxford. With this discovery, made possible through the Freedom of Information Act, there arose a strong concern in the town. It was actually pretty terrifying because the location was near where children played and across from a community ball field. No one had known the facility had existed: no historical record, no memory of it by residents who literally lived in the backyard of the milling facility (that subsequently was turned into a food warehouse and the site of a few small businesses in the 1970s).

Here you had a place that was part of what I call the "atomic cottage industry," a place where private individuals, under secret contract in the 1950s and 1960s, literally milled thousands of tons of uranium by hand for the making of atomic weapons with little or no regard for the effects of the radioactive materials and their waste. The U.S. government estimates that there were at least 400 such secret sites around the U.S. I especially look forward to the release of the two chapters about the events in Ohio as this story has never been published in book form.

I'm also looking forward to being a part of a movement to educate people of all ages about the history and current events regarding the atomic age: what we did, what we have left behind, what we're still doing. So, in part, that's what this book is about. It's about the history of our involvement with the atom over the past one hundred years—from the uranium dial painters of the early 1900s right up to the recent nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan—presented through readable and energetically written nonfiction stories."