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Gioacchino Failla (1891 - 1961)
Gioacchino Failla, one of the greatest pioneers in the fields of biophysics and radiobiology, began his career at New York's Memorial Hospital in 1915. Within a few years of joining the staff, he had established the first research program devoted to improving the medical applications of radiation. One of the initial products of this research was the construction of a radon generator, the first in the United States. In 1921, Failla was the first to suggest that radiation doses be expressed as the amount of radiation energy absorbed and made the first dose estimates in radium therapy in terms of microcalories per cc of tissue. With the arrival of an X-ray unit at his laboratory the following year, Failla constructed the first human phantom in the U.S. so that he could determine the effects of filtration and distance on X-ray fields in the body. In 1925, upon returning from a one-year sabbatical with Marie Curie in Paris, Failla published protocols and described equipment permitting radiotherapists to deliver the desired doses to their patients accurately. Not the least of his contributions were his roles in founding the International Commission on Radiation Units and Measurements (ICRU), and the Radiation Research Society. Later in his career, Failla left Memorial Hospital for Columbia University where he made important contributions to our understanding of radiation mutagenesis and the induction of cancer by radiation.
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