History - Radiation Therapy

Anna Hamann (1894-1969), a member of the department's faculty from 1938 to 1948, was the first full-time radiation oncologist in what was then the Division of Radiology, and perhaps the first female radiation oncologist to practice in the United States. Dr. Hamann graduated from the medical school of the University of Munich in 1921, and a thesis on "The Development of Biologic Foundations of Radium Therapy" earned her a doctorate, also from Munich, in 1924. She had studied physics under Röntgen, who had little tolerance for medical students in his physics classes, and less for female students. Probably because of this she was failed for being late for class one day, and would have had to leave medical school if Röntgen had not relented and passed her. She held various appointments in Europe, including the Institut du Radium in Paris and Radium Hemmet in Stockholm, did considerable research with radium, and was associated with Otto Hahn, who received the Nobel prize for his work in nuclear fission.

Hamann came to Chicago as a fellow in 1938, was certified in Therapeutic Radiology by the American Board of Radiology in 1939, and subsequently joined the faculty at the University of Chicago. Her major scientific interests were in tissue dosage and treatment planning. Since she was a German native, working in a hospital two blocks from the site of the world's first nuclear reactor, and devoid of fingerprints because of her work with radium, her presence excited some concern among the security conscious, including Hodges. After Dr. Hamann's resignation from the faculty at the University of Chicago, she was appointed to the faculty at Northwestern University. She is remembered as a skilled clinician and a pioneering clinical scientist. Notable among her students were D.J. Lochman and J.W.J. Carpender, who later headed the section of radiation therapy under Hodges and Moseley.

Carpender, who achieved distinction at the national level, including presidencies of the American Board of Radiology and of the Radium Society of North America, headed the section of radiation therapy from 1948 until 1965. While Carpender was section head, U.S. Navy residents in Bethesda came to Chicago for their training in radiation therapy. It is interesting to note, from the perspective of 1994, that Carpender received a starting salary of $4,500 on assuming the position of section chief, and within a few short years this had risen to $6,500 Following Capender's retirement in 1965, radiation therapy was headed by Melvin Greim, whose interests included treatment of brain tumors with neutrons. In 1984, the section of radiation therapy became the independent Department of Radiation and Cellular Oncology, chaired by Ralph Weichselbaum.