5 October 1899 - Birth of Elda Emma Anderson, prominent health physicist

Elda Emma Anderson was born in Wisconsin, USA, on 5 October 1899. Her affinity for numbers and her intellectual gifts, evident from childhood, led her to study physics at her hometown university, where she also earned her doctorate a few years later.

During a stint as a physics professor at Milwaukee-Downer College, Anderson discovered that academic life was too boring for her. So, after the war, and after spending a year working on the Manhattan Project at Princeton University and at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where she prepared the laboratory's first sample of pure uranium-235, she became interested in health physics.

In 1949 she went on to become the first head of education in the Health Physics Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and, from that year, spent her career helping to establish the new health physics training programme, teaching and mentoring graduate fellows in health physics.

Health physics (the study of the effects of radiation on human health) was a new field when Anderson entered it, and he spent the rest of his life developing it. His research resulted in his 1950 publication "Handbook of Radiation Protection for Civil Defence".

Anderson helped establish a master's programme in health physics at Vanderbilt University and organised international courses in the field in Sweden, Belgium and India. Beginning in 1955, when the Health Physics Society was formed, he held several official positions, including president. She remained active even after she was diagnosed with leukaemia in 1956.

Elda Emma Anderson died in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, on 17 April 1961.

Anderson is honoured each year at the annual meeting of the Health Physics Society when the Elda E. Anderson Award is presented to a young member of the Society.

To learn more about this scientist, click here: Elda Emma Anderson

Access to the best


on Energy and Environment
Go to resources