Alex Wellerstein (awellers)

Alex Wellerstein

Associate Professor

School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences


  • PhD (2010) Harvard University (History of Science)
  • BA (2002) University of California, Berkeley (History (High Honors))


I am a historian of science who specializes in the history of nuclear weapons. I have also published on the history of eugenics. At times, I have also been a web developer, database programmer, and graphics designer, and I have sought to integrate these digital practices into my research work and in the interest of broadening public understanding of both history and science.

My first book, Restricted Data: The History of Nuclear Secrecy in the United States, was published by the University of Chicago Press in early 2021. My second book, on nuclear policy in the Truman administration, is scheduled to be published by HarperCollins in 2025.

I have published numerous articles for both academic and general audiences. I maintain a list of my publications here. Most of my publications have been on the history of nuclear weapons, though I have also published one article in the history of eugenics. I occasionally write articles for The New Yorker's Elements blog as well as other popular venues. My work has been cited in the New York Times, The Atlantic, the History Channel, Fox News, and even The Daily Show, among other venues.

I am also the author of Restricted Data: The Nuclear Secrecy Blog, and the creator of the NUKEMAP, a popular nuclear weapons effects simulator.

General Information

Associate Professor, Program in Science and Technology Studies, School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.
David and GG Farber Fellow in Science and Technology Studies (2017-2019).
Director, Science and Technology Studies, 2020–.

Associate Historian, Center for History of Physics / Niels Bohr Library & Archives.

Lecturer, Department of History.

Lecturer, Department of the History of Science.

Research Fellow, Project on Managing the Atom/International Security Program, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Personal site:


From 2011-2014, I was an Associate Historian (a postdoctoral position) at the Center for the History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics. For the year prior to that, I was a postdoctoral fellow at the Managing the Atom Project (MTA) and the International Security Program at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and a Lecturer in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University. I maintain an affiliation with the MTA program as a Research Associate.

I have also had a long association with the Program on Science, Technology, and Society (STS) at the Harvard Kennedy School, and have been their design coordinator for many years. I have taught at Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Georgetown University. As a graduate student I was the Edward Teller Graduate Fellow in Science and Security Studies for the Office of History and Heritage Resources at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Among my consulting experiences, I was the guest curator for the Intrepid Museum (New York, NY) for their exhibit A View from the Deep: The Submarine Growler & the Cold War. I was also the historical consultant for the WGN America/Lionsgate television show MANHATTAN. You can also watch me talking about the Trinity site on Episode 6 of the Netflix show CONNECTED (2020).

Institutional Service

  • Director, STS Program Chair
  • Promotion and Tenure Committee (CAL) Member
  • Employee Awards Committee Member
  • Khoda Senior Honor Society Member
  • Provost search committee Member
  • CAL job search committee for STS–Philosophy Member
  • Self-Study Committee, STS Program Member
  • Chemical Safety Subcommittee Member
  • Assistant to the Director: STS program Member
  • Faculty Senate Member
  • Job search committee: Anthropology (co-chair) Chair
  • Job search committee: Vice President for Development and Alumni Engagement Member

Professional Service

  • Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences Associate Editor
  • Encyclopedia for the History of Science Advisory Board member
  • Fissile Materials Working Group, Center for Arms Control and Non- Proliferation Member
  • NSF Research Coordination Network for Computational and Digital History and Philosophy of Science Member, Steering Committee
  • American Philosophical Society Slater History of Science Postdoctoral Fellowship Selection Committee
  • Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues Member, National Advisory Board
  • Atomic Heritage Foundation Member, Advisory Committee
  • NSF Research Coordination Network for Computational and Digital History and Philosophy of Science Member, Steering Committee
  • Technology and Communications Committee, History of Science Society Member

Consulting Service

Guest curator, Intrepid Museum (New York, NY) for the exhibit A View from the Deep: The Submarine Growler & the Cold War.

Historical consultant, WGN America/Lionsgate television show MANHATTAN, Season 2.


Program Director, Science and Technology Studies (2020–)

Honors and Awards

Jess H. Davis Memorial Award for Research Excellence, Stevens Institute of Technology (2022)

David & G.G. Farber Faculty Fellow in Science and Technology Studies (2017-2019)

Stevens Institute of Technology Employee Excellence Award (2018-2019) for "Strengthened Reputation, Increased Prestige"

Finalist, National Science Foundation "Vizzies" Award for Data Visualization (for NUKEMAP, 2014)

Grants, Contracts and Funds

"OpenSIOP and TARGETMAP," Future of Life Institute, $145,000 (PI) (2023-2024)

"Oregon Road '83," Outrider Foundation, $20,000 (PI) (2023)

"New Nuclear History for Policy Outreach," Carnegie Corporation of New York, $200,000 (PI) (2021-2023)

"The President and the Bomb (pilot project)," Ploughshares Fund, $25,000 (Co-PI, with Avner Cohen) (2018-2019)

"Reinventing Civil Defense: Returning Nuclear Security to Civil Society," Carnegie Corporation of New York, $500,000 (Co-PI, with Kristyn Karl and Julie Pullen) (2017-2020)

"RaDDMAP: An Open-Source Tool for Visualizing the Effects of a 'Dirty Bomb'," N Square Collaborative, $25,000 (PI) (2016-2017)

"Dynamic Estimates of Urban Burning from Nuclear Attacks," Future of Life Institute, $20,000 (PI) (2016)

Selected Publications


The Atomic President: Harry Truman and the Making of the Nuclear Age. HarperCollins, 2025 (forthcoming).

Restricted Data: The History of Nuclear Secrecy in the United States. University of Chicago Press, 2021.

Selected articles

Fact, Fiction, and the Father of the Bomb: On Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer.” Los Angeles Review of Books (30 August 2023).

Can Trump Just Declare Nuclear Secrets Unclassified?” Lawfare (18 August 2022).

The Nuclear Dilemma: Deterrence Works, Up to a Point,Engelberg Ideas (7 June 2022).

Low-Yield Nukes Are Still Dangerously Destructive,Outrider (25 May 2022).

Secrecy and Verification in Nuclear Disarmament,” in Pavel Podvig, ed., Verifying Disarmament in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, 2022), 34-50.

An Unearthly Spectacle: The Untold Story of the World's Biggest Bomb,Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (29 October 2021).

(with Benoît Pelopidas), “The reason we haven’t had nuclear disasters isn’t careful planning. It’s luck,Washington Post (10 August 2020).

Counting the Dead at Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (4 August 2020).

Did the U.S. plan to drop more than two atomic bombs on Japan?National Geographic History (Summer 2020).

The Kyoto Misconception: What Truman Knew, and Didn’t Know, About Hiroshima,” in Michael D. Gordin and G. John Ikenberry, eds., The Age of Hiroshima (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2020).

John Wheeler’s H-bomb Blues,” Physics Today 72, no. 4 (2019): 42-51.

What We Lost When We Lost Bert the Turtle,” Harper’s Magazine (December 2017).

(with Edward Geist), “The secret of the Soviet hydrogen bomb,” Physics Today 70, no. 4 (March 2017), 40-47.

No one can stop President Trump from using nuclear weapons. That’s by design," Washington Post (4 December 2016), B1.

The virtues of nuclear ignorance,” New Yorker (20 September 2016).

The psychological power of nuclear weapons,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 72, no. 5 (2016), 298-303.

America at the atomic crossroads,” New Yorker (25 July 2016).

The demon core and the strange death of Louis Slotin,” New Yorker (21 May 2016).

Nagasaki: The Last Bomb,” New Yorker (7 August 2015).

The First Light of Trinity,” New Yorker (16 July 2015).

A Tale of Openness and Secrecy: The Philadelphia Story,” Physics Today 65, no. 5 (2012), 47-53.

States of Eugenics: Institutions and the Practices of Compulsory Sterilization in California,” in Sheila Jasanoff, ed., Reframing Rights: Bioconstitutionalism in the Genetic Age (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2011): 29-58.

Patenting the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Intellectual Property, and Technological Control,” Isis 99, no. 1 (March 2008): 57-87.


CAL 105: The Future
CAL 105: The End of the World
HHS 495: Personal History
PIN 183+184: Pinnacle Honors Seminar
HST 320: Science and Media
HST 325: Visualizing Society
HST 370: Biology and Society
HST 415: The Nuclear Era
HHS 130: The History of Science and Technology
HST 120: Introduction to Science and Technology Studies
HST 495: Game Development of Civil Defense