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HERBERT M. PARKER 1910-1984 BY MERRIL EISENBUD HERBERT M PARKER who player! an important role in or- ganizing the radiological safety programs in the Uniter! States cluring and after World War I! and who achieved worldwide recognition for his contribution to the excellent safety record of the nuclear industry, died at the age of seventy-three on March 5, 1984. Mr. Parker was born in Accrington, England, on April 13, 1910. He receiver! an M.S. in physics from the University of Manchester in 1931 and began his career as a medical phys- icist at the Christie Hospital and Holt Radium Institute in Manchester. While there, he shared in the development of the Paterson-Parker method of determining the size of the radiation dose to cancerous tissue from radium therapy. This method was a major development in radiotherapy, which is still used more than half a century after it was first published. In 1938 Parker was invited to join the stab of the Swedish Hospital in Seattle, where he was placed in charge of radio- logical physics at the Tumor Institute. He became associated with Simeon T. Cantril, a radiologist at the institute who, to- gether with Parker, was to play a prominent role in the war- time atomic energy program. In 1942 Parker joined the Uni- versity of Chicago's "Metallurgical Laboratories," the assembly site for the nucleus of the Manhattan Project. In 1943 he moved to Oak Ridge, where he established the ra- 279
280 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES diologicai safety program for the first of the major U.S. atomic energy research and production centers. This program was no small undertaking. Before World War Il. U.S. researchers' experience with radioactive sub- stances was extremely limited. Only slightly more than one kilogram of radium hack been extracted from the earth's crust, but the processing and use of that small amount of raclium, mainly in luminizing compounds, had aIreacly caused the deaths of more than one hundred persons. AcI- ctitional injuries and deaths had been caused by overexpo- sure to the X-rays used in medical practice. With this limitect base of experience, Parker and his small group of associates faced the prospect that the material to be processed by the Manhattan Project wouicl be the radioactive equivalent of hunctrecis of tons of radium! Fortunately, information from earlier misadventures with radium and X-rays provi(lecl a starting point for dealing with the new problems that had to be faced. The use of this mea- ger information to design procedures that safeguarcled atomic energy workers and the public from the effects of ion- izing radiation was one of the truly remarkable and unher- alded technological achievements of the Manhattan Project. New instrumentation had to be developed, people trained, and procedures instituter! that would protect human lives and also permit the expeditious achievement of the pro- gram's goals. Herbert Parker played a key role in establishing the basic philosophy of radiation protection anct in developing the in- formation ant! skills that were needed to implement it. He was a leacler in introducing units and quantities into radia- tion protection that are relevant to the absorption of energy in tissue. He invented the rep (forerunner of the red, the term in current use) as a practical energy absorption dose unit. He modified the rep by factors that accounted! for clif- ferences in biological effects to produce the rem, a unit that allowed (loses from different kinds of radiations to be summed. The rem, which can be consi(lerecl a unit of risk, is still in use.
HERBERT M. PARKER 281 After he established the basic radiation protection pro- gram at Oak Ridge, Parker was transferred in 1944 to a new industrial complex at Hanford. Here, E. I. flu Pont de Nem- ours and Company, Inc., had been charged with the design, construction, ant! operation of facilities to produce and sepa- rate plutonium. To process and separate plutonium in large quantities from highly radioactive reactor fuel, as well as to machine and fabricate plutonium metal, it would be neces- sary to operate the worId's first large nuclear reactors. Parker was sent to Hanford to organize and direct the facility's pro- gram of radiological protection. At Hanford, Herbert Parker not only organized a mode! radiological protection program, but he also initiated re- search to develop new instrumentation and to obtain infor- mation on the dispersion of radioactive materials in the en- vironment information that was required for improved . . . . . . . . . . . rac cation protection. lie part~c~patec' In c arc Investigations of diffusion in the atmosphere, soils, and water (e.g., the Co- lumbia River). Herbert Parker actively supported early studies of the en- vironmental and biomeclical aspects of radioactive particles containing fission products anct plutonium. He was also among the first scientists to undertake quantitative assess- ments of the effects of reactor accidents, presenting a land- mark paper on the subject at the first United Nations Con- ference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in 1955. In 1947, when the operation of Hanford was transferred from Du Pont to General Electric, Parker became manager of operational and research activities in ractiological sciences. Appointed manager of Hanford Laboratories when it was formed in 1956, he led the development efforts that pro- duced a research facility capable of addressing the complex technical, engineering, and scientific problems of the nuclear energy field. He held this position until 1965, when respon- sibility for the operation of the labs was transferred! from General Electric to Battelle Memorial Institute and the facil- ity was renamed the Pacific Northwest Laboratory. Mr. Parker remained with Battelle until his death, serving
282 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES at various times as consultant to the director and as an asso- ciate director. He was also a distinguished consultant to many other organizations, including the American College of Pa- thology and the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Herbert Parker was widely respected by his peers with whom he joiner! in the work of a number of professional groups. He was elected to the National Academy of Engi- neering in 1978. He was a member of the National Council on Radiation Protection anct Measurements, and he served as chairman of its Scientific Committee on Basic Radiation Protection Criteria. He was also a member of the American Nuclear Society, where he served on the board of directors. He was a fellow of the American Physical Society and of the British Institute of Physics, anct he server! on numerous scientific and technical committees, freely contributing his ideas and knowledge. Parker was certified as a health physicist by the American Board of Health Physics and as a radiological physicist by the American Board of Radiology. He received the Distin- guished Achievement Award of the Health Physics Society and the Janeway Mecial of the American Raclium Society. Herbert Parker hack many fine personal qualities in addi- tion to his intellectual capabilities. He was a handsome man of commanding appearance, and he had an extraordinary ability to surround himself with talented people. He was noted for his ciry British humor and outstanding speaking ability. Herbert and his wife Margaret livecl comfortably on the banks of the Columbia River, where they propagated prize irises, of which he was very proud. He is survived by his wife and four children, Henry, John, Elizabeth, and Linda. His many colleagues throughout the worI(1 are grateful for his accomplishments and for the privilege of having been his associates and friends. The extraordinary safety record of the atomic energy industry in the United States and else- where is the result, to a large degree, of the funclamental pioneering work of Herbert Parker.