Mary X. Mitchell

Doctoral Candidate
Entered 2011
J.D., Drexel University
M.A., History, University of Pennsylvania
B.A., Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania
Contact Information
Office Address: 
370 Claudia Cohen Hall
Email Address:
Teaching Fields: 

History of Science, Technology, & Medicine; Legal History; Bioethics; Professional Ethics; Environmental History; Environmental, Intellectual Property, & Administrative Law

Research Interests: 

My dissertation, "Test Cases," is a legal history of American nuclear weapons testing and contamination in the Marshall Islands.  Following World War II, the U.S. exercised near complete control of the Marshall Islands, detonating 67 above-ground nuclear devices at Enewetak and Bikini atolls between the years of 1946 and 1958. 

From the initiation of testing through the present day, these experiments furnished scientific data about nuclear weapons’ destructive capabilities as well as their biological and environmental effects. At the same time, islander communities served as important sites of biomedical research on radiation exposure and anthropological experimentation in governance. 

Despite the centrality of the Marshall Islands to American scientific and military pursuits, Marshall Islanders have occupied a marginal position in relation to American nuclear affairs.  "Test Cases" explores America's imperial encounters in the Marsall Islands through the prism of legal challenges to nuclear testing and its aftermaths.  It traces how and why U.S. administrators, Marshall Islanders, and antinuclear activists called upon shifting configurations of law, technology, and science to attempt to define the relationship between America’s growing global power and its core democratic principles. 

Before beginning graduate work in the history & sociology of science, I earned an M.A. in history and a J.D., worked in science and technology management and law, and served as a judicial law clerk to Judge Anthony J. Scirica, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. 

Selected Publications: 

“Screening Out Controversy: Human Genetics, Emerging Techniques of Diagnosis, and the Origins of the Social Issues Committee of the American Society of Human Genetics, 1964-1973,” Journal of the History of Biology (forthcoming).

“Storyscapes and Emplacement, Layer by Layer,” Change Over Time 3 (2013): 162-173 (with David Barnes).