Harold Elford Johns

His work was at all times characterized by the application of imagination and experimental skill backed by theoretical rigour to the solution of major problems, largely related to cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Cobalt Therapy
Postage stamp commemorating the development of cobalt therapy for cancer in 1951 (courtesy Canada Post Corp).

Johns, Harold Elford

 Harold Elford Johns, physicist, educator (b at Chengdu [Chengtu], W China 4 July 1915; d at Kingston, Ont 23 Aug 1998). Educated at McMaster and the University of Toronto, Harold Johns devoted his career to the application of physics to medicine and biology and to training students with similar interests. He is best known for his development at the University of Saskatchewan of cobalt therapy units which revolutionized the radiation treatment of cancer worldwide, and for his pioneering efforts in a variety of areas of medical physics and photochemistry.

His work was at all times characterized by the application of imagination and experimental skill backed by theoretical rigour to the solution of major problems, largely related to cancer diagnosis and treatment. An inspiring and enthusiastic teacher and lecturer, he was the initiator of Canada's first department of medical biophysics at U of T and gained international recognition for his research and educational efforts. He is the author of numerous scientific papers and The Physics of Radiology (4th ed, 1983), and he served as chairman of the Healing Arts Radiation Committee, 1981-82.

Among his awards and honours are Officer of the Order of Canada (1977); Gold Medal, American College of Radiology (1980); the R.M. Taylor Award, Canadian Cancer Society (1982); and the W.B. Lewis Award, Canadian Nuclear Society (1985); and induction into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame (1998).


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