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In Remembrance of Tony Sullivan



We are saddened to report the death of the distinguished dosimetrist Dr. Anthony Hayes Sullivan on Monday, May 26, 2008. He died in Worthing Hospital, West Sussex, at the age of 75 after a protracted illness.

Tony Sullivan was born in 1933 in Slough, England. After leaving Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School in Marlow, Tony studied in the evenings at the Battersea Polytechnic Institute (forerunner of The University of Surrey) for a University of London degree in physics, while working during the day for a local engineering company. He earned an honours degree – always a significant achievement but particularly for a part-time student. He then accepted a position at the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston where he was required to measure radiation from the Christmas Island atomic bomb test series (mid-1957). Later that year (October) he observed the dosimetry carried out during the Windscale Nuclear Reactor #1 fire.

On leaving Aldermaston he worked for the Central Electricity Generating Board assisting with setting up an environmental monitoring programme for the new Magnox reactors, firstly working at the CEGB laboratories in Leatherhead, Surrey, and then at the new laboratories at Berkeley in Gloucestershire. In 1962 he moved to the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva.

There Tony met Adrian Radbone who worked as a secretary at the World Health Organisation. They were married in Geneva on August 31, 1963.

At the time of Tony’s recruitment, CERN had just commissioned the 26 GeV proton synchrotron which presented the dosimetrist with many novel problems. He was appointed head of the Dosimetry Research Section of the Health Physics Group. His early main interests lay in the use of recombination ion chambers to measure dose equivalent directly in the complex radiation fields produced by high-energy particle accelerators. Later he performed pioneering dosimetry experiments in antiproton and muon beams at CERN. Tony’s work contributed greatly to a sound interpretation of measurements made both in and around high-energy charged-particle beams and outside accelerator shielding.

One of his most renowned contributions was the development of an analytic empirical formula known as the Sullivan-Overton formula (acknowledging the contribution made by his collaborator T. R. Overton) to describe the build-up and decay of the dose rate from ferrous material activated in high-energy accelerators. This formula was developed from a keen observation of the periodic classification of radioisotopes and a sound physical knowledge on which to base the necessary approximations. Its elegant simplicity, together with its acknowledged relationship to experimental reality, is now essential teaching in all courses on accelerator health physics. Not content with providing a sound basis for the activation of ferrous materials, he continued to provide other approximations for denser materials such as lead or for metals in the form of thin foils.

Encouraged by the CERN Director General, Professor Victor Weisskopf, Tony spent a year at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge Tennessee. Largely as a consequence of this work in the United States, Tony was able to submit a thesis to the University of London and earned the degree of Ph.D. in 1969.

Throughout his career at CERN Tony continued to generate definitive work, both theoretical and experimental in nature, which he regularly published to the immense benefit of other workers in the field. Much of this work was consolidated in his extremely important book: A Guide to Radiation and Radioactivity Levels near High Energy Particle Accelerators (Nuclear Technology Publishing, 1992). This book has proved of immense help to all in the profession around the world and showed that analytical expressions or parameterisations of experimental observations have served the profession well. Although Tony did not disfavour the use of complex computer methods, only a small part of his work required their use. He preferred to rely on methods that realistically reflected the immediate needs of the “stakeholders” and the underlying uncertainties in accelerator radiation protection coupled with his personal experience. Such was his expertise that he continued to deal with many design and operational problems in radiation protection resulting from the expansion of the facilities at CERN over the next thirty years or so.

After 31 years of service for CERN, Tony retired as a senior physicist and with Adrian went to live in the beautiful village of Upper Beeding, West Sussex. They both participated in village life, particularly in “Beeding in Bloom,” as part of the “Britain in Bloom” programme. Sadly, shortly after retiring he suffered a stroke and courageously battled its effects, remaining active as a consultant up to near the time of his death. His last major contribution was in the writing of the G. William Morgan Memorial Lecture, presented in absentia at Portland, Oregon, July 2007. The lecture discussed the improvements in procedures, hardware, and beam dynamics needed to ensure safety measures of a uniformly high standard in all types of accelerators world-wide. His keen insight, extensive knowledge, and dry sense of humour amply demonstrated his stature in his chosen field. The award testified to the admiration of his many friends and colleagues around the world all of whom will be greatly saddened by his death.

He is survived by his wife and three children - Jane, Jim, and Christopher.

Prepared by G.B.S, G.R.S, and R.H.T.: three colleagues and friends of Tony Sullivan

Editor's note: This article was reprinted with permission from the Oxford University Press journal, Radiation Protection Dosimetry.