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This book is dedicated to Malcolm "Mal" Hancock of Great Falls, Montana
-- an independent analyst of a different type.

About the Author

          John William Gofman is Professor Emeritus of Medical Physics at the University of California at Berkeley, and Lecturer at the Department of Medicine, University of California School of Medicine at San Francisco.

          He is the author of several books and more than a hundred scientific papers in peer-review Journals, in the fields of nuclear/physical chemistry, coronary heart disease, ultracentrifugal analysis of the serum lipoproteins, the relationship of human chromosomes to cancer, and the biological effects of ionizing radiation with particular reference to cancer-induction.

A Narrative Chronology

          While a graduate student at Berkeley, Gofman co-discovered protactinium-232 and uranium-232, protactinium-233 and uranium-233, and proved the slow and fast neutron fissionability of uranium-233.

          Post-doctorally, he continued work related to the atomic bomb. Prior to operation of plutonium-producing reactors at Hanford, plutonium was so rare that not even a quarter-milligram existed, but half a milligram was urgently needed for making measurements in the Manhattan Project. At the request of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Gofman and Robert Connick irradiated a ton of uranyl nitrate by placing it around the Berkeley cyclotron night and day. In 110 Gilman Hall, they scaled up Gofman's previous test-tube-sized sodium uranyl acetate process for the plutonium's chemical extraction. Dissolving 10-pound batches of the "hot" ton in big Pyrex Jars, and working around the clock with the help of eight or ten others, in about three weeks they reduced the ton to a half cc of liquid containing 1.2 milligram of plutonium (twice as much as expected).

          After the plutonium work, Gofman completed medical school. In 1947, he began his research on coronary heart disease and, by developing special flotation ultracentrifugal techniques, demonstrated the existence of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). His work on their chemistry and health consequences included the first prospective studies demonstrating that high LDL levels represent a risk-factor for coronary heart disease (Co56) and that low HDL levels represent a risk-factor for coronary heart disease (1966, Circulation 34: 679-697). His principal book on the heart disease research is Coronary Heart Disease (1959, Charles C. Thomas, Publisher).

          In the early 1960s, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) asked him if he would establish the Biomedical Research Division at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, for the purpose of evaluating the health effects of all types of nuclear activities. From 1963-1965, he served as the division's first director, and then stepped down in order to have more time for his own laboratory research in cancer, chromosomes, and radiation, as well as his analytical work on the data from the Japanese atomic-bomb survivors and other irradiated human populations.

          In 1965, Dr. Ian MacKenzie had published an elegant report entitled "Breast Cancer Following Multiple Fluoroscopies" (British J. Of Cancer 19: 1-8), and in 1963, Wanebo and co-workers had reported on "Breast Cancer after Exposure to the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki" (New England J. Of Med. 279: 667-671), but few were willing to concede that breast-cancer could be induced by low-LET radiation.

          Gofman and his colleague, Dr. Arthur Tamplin, quantified the breast-cancer risk (1970, Lancet 1: 297), looked at the other available evidence, and concluded overall that human exposure to ionizing radiation was much more serious than previously recognized (Go69;   Go71).

          Because of this finding, Gofman and Tamplin spoke out publicly in favor of re-examining two programs which they had previously accepted. One was the AEC's "Project Plowshare," a program to use hundreds or thousands of nuclear explosions to liberate natural gas in the Rocky Mountains and to excavate harbors and canals. Experimental shots had already been done in Colorado and Nevada. The second program was the AEC's plan to license about 1,000 nuclear power plants as quickly as possible and to build a "plutonium economy" based on breeder reactors. In 1970, Gofman and Tamplin proposed a five-year moratorium on licensing of commercial nuclear power plants.

          In 1973, Gofman returned to full-time teaching at the University of California at Berkeley, until choosing an early and active "retirement."

Curriculum Vitae

Birth:   September 21, 1918 in Cleveland, Ohio.


Additional appointments held:


Honors and awards:

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