John Gofman

John Gofman

Infobox Scientist
name = Jeremy V. Gofman
box_width =

image_width =
caption =
birth_date = September 21, 1918
birth_place = Cleveland, Ohio
death_date = August 15, 2007
death_place = San Francisco, California
residence =
citizenship = flag|United States
nationality =
ethnicity =
field = Biology, Chemistry
work_institutions =
alma_mater = Oberlin College (Bachelor's)
University of California at Berkeley (Ph.D)
University of California, San Francisco (M.D.)
doctoral_advisor =
doctoral_students =
known_for =
author_abbrev_bot =
author_abbrev_zoo =
influences =
influenced =
prizes =
religion =
footnotes =

John William Gofman M.D., Ph.D., (September 21, 1918 - August 15, 2007) was an American scientist and advocate. He was Professor Emeritus of Molecular and Cell Biology at University of California at Berkeley. Some of his early work was on the Manhattan Project, and he shares patents on the fissionability of uranium-233 as well as on early processes for separating plutonium from fission products. Dr. Gofman later worked in medicine and led the team that discovered and characterized lipoproteins in the causation of heart disease. In 1963, he established the Biomedical Research Division for the Livermore National Laboratory, where he was on the cutting edge of research into the connection between chromosomal abnormalities and cancer.

Later in life, he took on a role as an advocate warning of dangers involved with nuclear power. From 1971 onward, he was the Chairman of the Committee for Nuclear Responsibility. He was awarded the Right Livelihood Award for his work on the effects of the Chernobyl disaster's low-level radiation exposure on the population. [ [ Mission Statement of the Committee for Nuclear Responsibility] ] John Gofman died of heart failure on August 15th, 2007 in his home in San Francisco.

Early work

John Gofman was born in Cleveland, Ohio. He graduated from Oberlin College with a bachelor's in 1939, and received a doctorate in nuclear and physical chemistry from Berkeley in 1943. In his work as a graduate student, he studied nuclear isotopes and helped to describe several discoveries, including protactinium-232, uranium-232, protactinium-233, and uranium-233. He also helped to work out the fissionability of uranium-233. He later became the group co-leader of the Plutonium Project, an offshoot of the Manhattan Project. [ Obituary: John W. Gofman, 88, Scientist and Advocate for Nuclear Safety Dies] "New York Times", August 26, 2007.]

Dr. Gofman earned his medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco, in 1946. After that, he and his collaborators investigated the body’s lipoproteins, which contain both proteins and fats, and their circulation within the bloodstream. The researchers described low-density and high-density lipoproteins and their roles in metabolic disorders and coronary disease. This work continued throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s.

At Livermore

Dr. Gofman established the Biomedical Research Division for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 1963. In 1964, he raised questions about a lack of data on low-level radiation and also proposed a wide-ranging study of exposure in medicine and the workplace at a symposium for nuclear scientists and engineers. This helped start a national inquiry into the safety of atomic power. With his colleague Dr. Arthur R. Tamplin, Dr. Gofman then looked at health studies of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as other epidemiological studies, and conducted research on radiation’s influences on human chromosomes. The two scientists suggested that federal safety guidelines for low-level exposures be reduced by 90 percent in 1969. The Atomic Energy Commission contested the findings, and "the furor made Dr. Gofman a reluctant figurehead of the antinuclear movement" according to "The New York Times". In 1970, he testified in favor of a bill to ban commercial nuclear reactors in New York City and told the City Council that a reactor in an urban environment would be "equal in the opposite direction to all the medical advances put together in the last 25 years."

Opposition to nuclear power

Gofman retired as a teaching professor in 1973 and became a professor emeritus of molecular and cell biology.

After the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, Gofman used his model of the effects of low-level radiation to predict 333 deaths from the accident; to date no deaths have been officially attributed to the accident. After the April 26, 1986 Chernobyl disaster, he predicted one million malignancies from the fallout, half of which would be fatal. According to the United Nations, the official death toll to date is 56, of which nine were children who died of thyroid cancer (although many animals died from that cause). Four thousand other children were treated for thyroid cancer and recovered. Greenpeace disputes the U.N. fatality number.

After a speech Gofman gave on nuclear waste at a national conference of activists in the summer of 1990, Charles Butler approached him for help. Butler was a retired physicist living in the Mojave Desert town of Needles, California, and was looking for help to stop the proposed low-level nuclear waste facility at Ward Valley, California. Gofman referred him to the Abalone Alliance Clearinghouse in San Francisco. With less than two weeks before the closure of the Environmental Impact Statement, the Alliance was able to mount a letter writing campaign that helped delay the EIS for an additional 90 days. This initial delay gave activists the time to form Don't Waste California and build a grassroots campaign that eventually stopped Ward Valley from opening.

Gofman also did work on the Diablo Canyon Power Plant.


Excerpts from an obituary tribute by Dr. Kathleen Burns on the Energy Justice website at|date=August 2007

John Gofman was one of the first scientists who offered a clear path to documenting the long-term harm done by radiation using cancer epidemiology. His approach to taking current real-world data on what was happening in communities of radiation-exposed people and projecting likely cancers in the future was a major leap forward. It made it possible to understand that the likely consequences of low level radiation were much greater than previously described. He understood that cancer develops in different people at different ages, and so constructed tables to "predict" the long-term consequences of exposing large populations to radiation. His 1981 book "Radiation and Human Health", described this and many other things that are still very relevant to our struggles for public health protection today.

For those people who also work on chemical hazards and protection of children's health, his 1981 book was one of the first that contained a concept we are finding to be extremely important in chemicals management for public health protection. His study of radiation-induced cancer showed that low dose exposures could do greater damage per unit of dose than high dose exposures (a supralinear dynamic illustrated in "Radiation and Human Health" by Gofman, as listed below)).Fact|date=August 2007 At a time when accepted truths about radiation were derived from high dose Hiroshima and Nagasaki effects, this was a leap forward in thinking about radiation and understanding the hazards of low doses of ionizing radiation. It has only been in the last 5 years that studies have been published on this same dynamic for some chemical hazards, for example lead and mercury induced cognitive damage in children (Axelrad et al, 2007 at Free full text online). The implications for national public health policies are substantial - for at least some chemicals, our water, food, air, and soil standards that rely on old ways of thinking may not be sufficient.Fact|date=August 2007


* " [ Poisoned Power, The Case Against Nuclear Power Plants Before and After Three Mile Island] " (with Arthur R. Tamplin, Ph.D.), 1971, 1979
* "Irrevy: an irreverent, illustrated view of nuclear power," 1979
* "Radiation And Human Health," 908 pages, 1981
* "X-Rays: Health Effects of Common Exams" (with Egan O'Connor), 439 pages, 1985
* " [ Radiation-Induced Cancer From Low-Dose Exposure: An Independent Analysis] " 480 pages, 1990
* "Chernobyl Accident: Radiation Consequences for This and Future Generations," 574 pages, 1994
* " [ Preventing Breast Cancer: The Story of a Major, Proven, Preventable Cause of this Disease] " 1996
* " [ Radiation from Medical Procedures in the Pathogenesis of Cancer and Ischemic Heart Disease: Dose-Response Studies with Physicians per 100,000 Population] " 1999


* Gold-Headed Cane Award, University of California Medical School, 1946, presented to the graduating senior who most fully personifies the qualities of a "true physician."
* Modern Medicine Award, 1954, for outstanding contributions to heart disease research.
* The Lyman Duff Lectureship Award of the American Heart Association in 1965, for research in atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease; lecture published in 1966 as "Ischemic Heart Disease, Atherosclerosis, and Longevity," in Circulation 34: 679-697.
* The Stouffer Prize (shared) 1972, for outstanding contributions to research in arterioslerosis.
* American College of Cardiology, 1974; selection as one of twenty-five leading researchers in cardiology of the past quarter-century.
* University of California, Berkeley, Bancroft Library, 1988; announcement of the "Gofman Papers" established in the History of Science and Technology Special Collection (October 1988, Bancroftiana, No. 97: 10-11).
* Right livelihood Award, 1992
* Honored Speaker for the Meeting of the Arteriosclerosis Section of the American Heart Association, 1993


External links

* [ Obituary in "The Times"]
* [ Curriculum Vitae]
* [ Committee for Nuclear Responsibility]
* [ John Gofman's online papers and books]
* [ Human Radiation Studies: Remembering the Early Years, an interview with John Gofman]
* [ California Monthly: A Conversation with Dr. John Gofman] , 1993
* [ Right Livelihood Award citation]
* [,1,2268760,print.story Los Angeles Times obituary]
* [ San Francisco Chronicle obituary]
* [ John Gofman's Nuclear Courage]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Anti-nuclear groups in the United States — Main article: Anti nuclear movement in the United States Anti nuclear movement Australia  · Austria  · Canada …   Wikipedia

  • Nuclear power in the United States — For a comprehensive list of U.S. plants, see List of nuclear reactors. NRC regions and locations of nuclear reactors, 2008 Main article: Nuclear power As of 2008, nuclear power in the United States is provided by 104 commercial reactors (69 …   Wikipedia

  • Committee for Nuclear Responsibility — The Committee for Nuclear Responsibility was formed as a political and educational organization to disseminate anti nuclear views and information to the public .[1] The goals of the organization were a moratorium on nuclear power and the… …   Wikipedia

  • Linear no-threshold model — The linear no threshold model (LNT) is a method for predicting the long term, biological damage caused by ionizing radiation and is based on the assumption that the risk is directly proportional to the dose at all dose levels. In other words, the …   Wikipedia

  • Anti-nuclear movement — 120,000 people attended an anti nuclear protest in Bonn, Germany, on October 14, 1979, following the Three Mile Island accident.[1] …   Wikipedia

  • Anti-nuclear movement in the United States — The anti nuclear movement in the United States is comprised of more than forty loosely affiliated largely grass roots anti nuclear groups opposing (see Nuclear debate) the generation of nuclear power either locally, nationally or world wide.The… …   Wikipedia

  • Alla Jaroschynska — (ukrainisch Алла Ярошинська, wiss. Transliteration Alla Jarošyns ka, russisch Алла Александровна Ярошинская/ Alla Alexandrowna Jaroschinskaja; * 14. Februar 1953 in Schytomyr) ist eine ukrainische Journalistin. Alla Jaroschynska studierte… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Иманака, Тэцудзи — Тэцудзи Иманака Tetsuji Imanaka 今中 哲二 Место рождения: Хиросима Страна …   Википедия

  • List of World War II topics (J) — # J XX # J Malan Heslop # J. Aird Nesbitt # J. Allen Frear, Jr. # J. B. Stoner # J. Braid # J. C. Gilbert # J. Caleb Boggs # J. Carson Mark # J. D. Salinger # J. D. Tippit # J. Douglas Blackwood # J. F. Lehmann # J. Fraser McLuskey # J. Henry… …   Wikipedia

  • Ralph Nader — Nader speaking at BYU s Alternate Commencement Personal details …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.