Alex Wellerstein

School: College of Arts & Letters
Building: Morton
Room: 337

B.A. (High Honors), History, University of California, Berkeley, 2002
Ph.D., History of Science, Harvard University, 2010


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. 

I am currently under contract to the University of Chicago Press to complete a book on the history of nuclear secrecy in the United States from the Manhattan Project to the present (forthcoming early 2021).

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 wellas 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


Assistant Professor, Program in Science and Technology Studies, College of Arts and Letters.

David and GG Farber Fellow in Science and Technology Studies (2017-2019).


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. 




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.

Institutional Service
  • Director, Program in Science and Technology Studies (2020–)
  • Elected member, Faculty Senate (2018-2019)
  • Member, Vice President for Development and Alumni Engagement Search Committee (2018)
Professional Service
  • Member, Fissile Materials Working Group, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. (2018-present)
  • Member, Advisory Board, Encyclopedia for the History of Science (2018-present)
  • Member, Nominations Committee, History of Science Society. (elected position) (2016-2017)
  • Member, Steering Committee, NSF Research Coordination Network for Computational and Digital History and Philosophy of Science (2016-present)
  • Member, Technology and Communication Committee, History of Science Society (2015-2019)
  • Member, Ad-hoc Committee on Publications and Professional Excellence, History of Science Society (2014)
  • Chair, Website Redesign Committee, History of Science Society (2012-2014)
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
Honors & Awards
  • David & G.G. Farber Faculty Fellow in Science and Technology Studies

  • 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)
Professional Societies
  • History of Science Society
  • Society for the History of Technology
  • Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations
Grants, Contracts & Funds
  • "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
  1. Alex Wellerstein. (Aug 2019). "NC3 Decision Making: Individual Versus Group Process", Special Reports , Nautilus Institute.  .
  1. Alex Wellerstein. (Dec 2019). "John Wheeler's H-bomb Blues", Physics Today, 72 (12), 42-51.  .
  2. Alex Wellerstein. (2018). "The Many Places of Cold War Science [review essay]", Isis, 109 (4), 806-808.  .
  3. Alex Wellerstein and Edward Geist. (Mar 2017). "The Secret of the Soviet Hydrogen Bomb", Physics Today, 70 (4), 40-47.  Download  .
  4. Alex Wellerstein. (Mar 2017). "The Epistemology of Civility and the Civility of Epistemology [review essay]", Isis, 108 (1), 140-142.  .
  5. Alex Wellerstein. (2012). "Nuclear Others [review essay]", Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences, 42 (3), 235-245.  .
  6. Alex Wellerstein. (2012). "A Tale of Openness and Secrecy: The Philadelphia Story", Physics Today, 65 (5), 47-53.  Download  .
  7. Alex Wellerstein. (Mar 2008). "Patenting the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Intellectual Property, and Technological Control", Isis, 99 (1), 57-87.  Download  .
  1. Alex Wellerstein. (2020). Restricted Data: The History of Nuclear Secrecy in the United States , University of Chicago Press.
Book Chapters
  1. Alex Wellerstein. (Jan 2020). "The Kyoto Misconception: What Truman Knew, and Didn't Know, About Hiroshima", The Age of Hiroshima , Michael D. Gordin and G. John Ikenberry, Princeton University Press. 34-55.  .
  2. Alex Wellerstein. (2019). "Manhattan Project", Encyclopedia for the History of Science,  .
  3. Alex Wellerstein. (2011). "States of Eugenics: Institutions and the Practices of Compulsory Sterilization in California", Reframing Rights: Bioconstitutionalism in the Genetic Age , Sheila Jasanoff, MIT Press. 29-58.  Download  .
  1. Bill Nye (Guest Interviewee). (Mar 2019). "Science Rules! with Bill Nye", Stitcher.  .
  2. Radiolab (Guest Producer). (Apr 2017). "Nukes", NPR.  .
  1. Kristyn Karl, Ashley Lytle and Alex Wellerstein. (Jan 14, 2019). "A nuclear bomb might not kill you. But not knowing how to respond might.", The Washington Post,  .
  2. Alex Wellerstein. (Jan 16, 2018). "The Hawaii alert was an accident. The dread it inspired wasn't.", The Washington Post,  .
  3. Alex Wellerstein and Avner Cohen. (Nov 22, 2017). "If Trump wants to use nuclear weapons, whether it's 'legal' won't matter", The Washington Post,  .
  4. Alex Wellerstein. (Dec 1, 2016). "No one can stop President Trump from using nuclear weapons", The Washington Post, B1.  .
  1. Alex Wellerstein. (Dec 2017). "What We Lost When We Lost Bert the Turtle", Harper's Magazine,  .
  2. Alex Wellerstein. (Aug 7, 2015). "Nagasaki: The Last Bomb", The New Yorker.  .
  3. Alex Wellerstein. (Jul 16, 2015). "The First Light of Trinity", The New Yorker ,  .
  • HHS 130 History of Science and Technology
  • CAL 105 CAL Colloquium: Knowledge, Nature, Culture
  • HST 120 Intro to Science & Tech Studies
  • HST 320 Science and the Media
  • HST 415 The Nuclear Era
  • HST 370 Biology, Eugenics, and Society
  • HST 325 Visualizing Society