National Academies Press: OpenBook

Biographical Memoirs: Volume 62 (1993)


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Suggested Citation:"RADIATION BIOLOGY AT OAK RIDGE, 1950-54." National Academy of Sciences. 1993. Biographical Memoirs: Volume 62. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2201.
Page 176
Suggested Citation:"RADIATION BIOLOGY AT OAK RIDGE, 1950-54." National Academy of Sciences. 1993. Biographical Memoirs: Volume 62. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2201.
Page 177

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JACOB FURTH 176 When the Veterans Administration abolished its regional organization, a better opportunity arose in 1949 to chair a department in one of its university- based hospitals. At the same time, however, Jacob received a cordial invitation from Alexander Hollaender to join the Biology Division of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He accepted on the advice of Shields Warren, a statesman of U.S. science who at the time was head of the Atomic Energy Commission Biology Division, and thus ended a seventeen-year period of broad-based pathology to return once again to the laboratory. RADIATION BIOLOGY AT OAK RIDGE, 1950-54 Jacob had already contributed to radiation carcinogenesis with x-ray induction of leukemia in mice back in 1929, the induction of ovarian tumors as late radiation effects, and some attempts at γ-ray therapy of experimental leukemia. Enthusiastically plunging into the newly developing area of radiation biology, Jacob greatly expanded his perceptions by taking a course in radiation physics. Aided and guided by members of the Biology Division, he entered a renewed surge of research accomplishment in a highly charged atmosphere, of the same type that had nourished and sustained him at Cornell. A unique experiment in which he took part at Oak Ridge was a massive study of radiation effects on mice, resulting from an experimental explosion of an atomic bomb (Operation Greenhouse). As Shields Warren wrote, Jacob was the recipient of large numbers of mice, survivors from a Pacific nuclear test, placed with various degrees of shielding along radii from the point of explosion. He had the foresight to follow these animals to the time of their natural death. As a result of these studies, much new information was developed about the late effects of radiation, about biological dosimetry, and about the similarity of certain radiation effects to those of aging. The meticulous care with which these animals were kept free of

JACOB FURTH 177 epizootics and the painstaking observations on them, pre and postmortem, became a milestone in radiobiological research.2 The hitherto puzzling cause of the anemia associated with acute death from radiation occupied much of Jacob's attention during this period. This problem was solved by the discovery, with Storey, Wish, and others that erythrocytes enter the lymph ducts owing to radiation-induced destruction of platelets. Within minutes after platelet perfusion, the bloody lymph clears. With amusement Jacob described his difficulty in getting this important observation accepted by a prestigious journal.1 This work led to the effective use of platelet perfusion in platelet deficiency disorders. At Oak Ridge Jacob's senior associate was Arthur C. Upton. Among his various collaborations there, Jacob acknowledged that "in studies of radiation- induced leukemias of various types and the relative biological efficiency of diverse types of radiations, my senior associate, A. Upton, did a 'lion's share' of the work."1 This collaboration, extending long beyond Jacob's tenure at Oak Ridge, resulted in many publications on detailed mechanisms of radiation- induced carcinogenesis and influences thereon of hormonal manipulation. As Upton has stated, "His name has become legend here. His intensity, devotion to science and impatience with imperfection are recalled vividly by all who knew him. My admiration for J.F. and my debt to him as my mentor are boundless."2 This period was especially notable for the beginning of Jacob's perhaps most important contributions—the role of hormones in neoplasia, a field in which he subsequently devoted most of his scientific efforts. Endocrine tumors had been observed in Operation Greenhouse. It also had been observed by Gorbman that radiation from 131iodine

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Biographic Memoirs: Volume 62 contains the biographies of deceased members of the National Academy of Sciences and bibliographies of their published works. Each biographical essay was written by a member of the Academy familiar with the professional career of the deceased. For historical and bibliographical purposes, these volumes are worth returning to time and again.

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