https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/ ... 180962424/
The Fernald State School, originally called The Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded, housed mentally disabled children along with those who had been abandoned by their parents. Conditions at the school were often brutal; staff deprived boys of meals, forced them to do manual labor and abused them. Boyce, who lived there after being abandoned by his family, was eager to join the Science Club. He hoped the scientists, in their positions of authority, might see the mistreatment and put an end to it.
“We didn’t know anything at the time,” Boyce said of the experiments. “We just thought we were special.” Learning the truth about the club felt like a deep betrayal.
The boys didn’t find out the whole story about their contaminated cereal for another four decades. During a stretch between the late 1940s and early 1950s, Robert Harris, a professor of nutrition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led three different experiments involving 74 Fernald boys, aged 10 to 17. As part of the study, the boys were fed oatmeal and milk laced with radioactive iron and calcium; in another experiment, scientists directly injected the boys with radioactive calcium.