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Dr. Robley Dunglison Evans

 

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Dr. Robley Evans

Born on 18 May 1907, Evans was from 1934 to 1938 an Assistant Professor, from 1938 to 1945 an Associate Professor and from 1945 a full Professor of Physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. During his graduate studies at Caltech, Evans’ supervisor, Robert Millikan, introduced him to Frank Crandall, the Los Angeles County Health Officer, who was expressing concern about potential hazards to the public from radium-containing patent medicines that were being produced in Los Angeles. As a result Evans concentrated much of his career on the subject of radium poisoning and built the first whole-body counter to measure radium and subsequently pioneered investigations into its metabolism, hazards and methods for mitigating these hazards.

The defining moment in Robley Evans' career came during his graduate studies at Caltech when his supervisor, Robert Millikan, introduced him to the Los Angeles County Health Officer, Frank Crandall. Crandall was concerned about the hazard to the public from radium-containing patent medicines, many of which were being produced in the Los Angeles area. After graduation, Evans accepted a position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he continued to investigate the subject of radium poisoning. Here, Evans built the first whole body counter to measure radium uptake by the radium dial painters and carried out the first quantitative in-vivo measurements of a radionuclide in the human body. Indeed, the scintillation cameras so common in today's hospitals are direct descendants of his original counter. Evans' studies went well beyond measuring radium in the body: he pioneered investigations into its metabolism, its hazards, and methods for mitigating these hazards. He was primarily responsible for promulgating the first limit on radioactive material in the body, 0.1 uCi of radium-226, a value that served for more than four decades as the benchmark for bone-seeking radionuclides. Not the least of his contributions was the first use, (ca. 1930s) of radioiodine to evaluate thyroid function in humans, which is a technique that stood the test of time and remained, well into the 1980s, one of the most potent diagnostic tools available to physicians. It is no wonder Robley Evans is recognized as one of the founders of the field of Nuclear Medicine.

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On 10 March 1950, Evans was contacted by Lt. Colonel Robert H. Blount, USAF, Chief, Medical Research Division, Office of the Surgeon General, who forwarded Evans a document titled "Memorandum Report on the Psychological Analysis of Reports of Unidentified Aerial Objects." Blount noted to Robley that the report was classified at Restricted level, but would soon be replaced by a new and revised report that was to receive a Top Secret classification. Blount further advised Evans that: "...It has recently been rumored that one of these so-called flying saucers crashed in Mexico; however, the details are somewhat bizarre at this moment."

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