Between April and October 1958, 42 million people visited Expo 58 in Brussels, the first post-war world exhibition. Its main attraction was the Atomium, a 102-metre high building consisting of nine aluminium-clad spheres connected by tubes containing elevators to transport visitors from one sphere to the next. The structure represented an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times. At night, lights on the spheres represented the electrons circling the nuclei. Designed by an engineer from an association of metal-producing firms, the Atomium advertised the capabilities of Belgian iron industries, but its main purpose was to celebrate the coming of the atomic age. Inside the spheres, under the motto ‘Atom = Hope’, the American Westinghouse Electric Company and firms from Belgium, Italy and Germany showed their achievements and plans in nuclear technology. Elsewhere at the exhibition, Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union presented their nuclear reactors and all kinds of peaceful applications of atomic energy, as well as a whole array of other technological wonders. Nuclear energy was but one of many innovations exhibited at Expo 58, whose central message was that science, technology, modern design and international co-operation would create a better and brighter world. The famous biologist Julian Huxley conferred his scientific and moral authority on this optimism in a series of well-attended lectures on ‘the fate of mankind at the threshold of the atomic age’.

Additional Metadata
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1057/9780230292314_17, hdl.handle.net/1765/98618
Citation
van Lente, D. (2010). Biography 7: Peaceful atom: The brief career of a symbol of co-operation and prosperity. In Materializing Europe: Transnational Infrastructures and the Project of Europe (pp. 286–289). doi:10.1057/9780230292314_17