[ RadSafe ] Obituary: Robert Loevinger Dies; Aided Radiation Therapy

John Jacobus crispy_bird at yahoo.com
Sun Nov 13 08:55:53 CST 2005

>From today's Washington Post


Robert Loevinger Dies; Aided Radiation Therapy

By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 13, 2005; C08

Robert Loevinger, 89, who, in his 20 years as chief of
the National Institute of Standards and Technology's
dosimetry section, ensured that medical radiation
therapy was safe and accurate, died Nov. 6 while
visiting his daughter in San Diego. He had Alzheimer's

Dr. Loevinger, a veteran of the Manhattan Project, was
known in his field as "Mr. Dosimetry" for his career
efforts to make radiation treatments for millions of
cancer patients reliable. Dosimetry is the science of
measuring doses of radiation.

He outlined, using a new X-ray measurement in the
early 1980s, how to calculate proper cancer-patient
dosages in radiation therapy. He also figured out how
to calibrate X-ray machines in hospitals around the
world and established a national network of
radiation-therapy calibration laboratories to keep the
machines accurate.

"The few good things that I have done have been
pencil-and-paper and slide-rule accomplishments, with
very limited help from computers or other modern
technology," Dr. Loevinger said in 1995, upon
receiving the William D. Coolidge Award from the
American Association of Physicists in Medicine. "I am
not inveighing against technology -- I am not a modern
Luddite -- but I am saying that my limited skills are
obsolete. I assume that present and future generations
will be more au courant than I have been."

Despite that humble statement, virtually all radiation
therapies in the United States today are traceable for
their accuracy to the measurement and calibration
programs led by Dr. Loevinger, according to NIST.

Born in St. Paul, Minn., he graduated from the
University of Minnesota and received a master's degree
in astronomy from Harvard University in 1938 and a
doctoral degree in physics from the University of
California at Berkeley in 1947.

During World War II, he worked at Berkeley on the
Manhattan Project, the government's effort to develop
a nuclear weapon. His job was to take high-speed
motion pictures of the first atomic bomb test in Los
Alamos, N.M. In Hollywood, he processed aerial films
taken of the Hiroshima explosion. He later joined
scientific organizations that promoted the peaceful
use of nuclear technology.

Dr. Loevinger started his career in medical physics at
Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, followed by stints
at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, Stanford
University Medical Center in California and the
International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria,
where he was dosimetry section chief and set up a
series of standard dosimetry laboratories around the

In 1968, he joined the National Bureau of Standards
(now NIST) as dosimetry group chief. He was
responsible for dosimetry standards, research and new
calibration services, as well as coordination and
comparison with foreign calibration laboratories. He
officially retired in 1988 but worked there for
another four years.

He was awarded the Department of Commerce Silver Medal
in 1980, the Federal Laboratory Consortium Award for
Excellence in Technology Transfer in 1985, the Health
Physics Society Distinguished Scientific Achievement
Award in 1993 and the Farrington Daniels Award from
the American Association of Physicists in Medicine.

Dr. Loevinger lived in Rockville for more than 30
years before moving to Gaithersburg and, last year, to
Silver Spring. A dedicated family man, he cared for
three nieces after his sister died and attended to
in-laws in nursing homes. He loved classical music but
became hearing-impaired early in life and could not
continue to play his cello.

His wife of 52 years, Ruth Sonja Schimmel Loevinger,
died in 2004.

Survivors include three children, Nancy Loevinger of
San Diego, David Loevinger of Silver Spring and Neil
Loevinger of Newton Center, Mass.; and three

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

On Oct. 5, 1947, in the first televised White House address, President Truman asked Americans to refrain from eating meat on Tuesdays and poultry on Thursdays to help stockpile grain for starving people in Europe. 

-- John
John Jacobus, MS
Certified Health Physicist
e-mail:  crispy_bird at yahoo.com

Yahoo! FareChase: Search multiple travel sites in one click.

More information about the RadSafe mailing list