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FROM ATOM TO EVE* LEON O JACOBSONS In the Beginning InJanuary of 1942 I was an assistant in the Department of Medicine at the University of Chicago. One afternoon I was helping an intern catheterize a patient with a "watering pot perineum." This descriptive phrase applies to an individual who has active tuberculosis ofthe bladder with multiple fistulae that lead from the bladder through to the skin in the perineum and lower buttocks. No antibiotics were available for the treatment oftuberculosis, and since such patients were highly infectious, the nurse, the intern, and I were all properly gowned, masked, and rubber-gloved to protect ourselves as well as the patient. During this medical procedure, I heard my name being called repeatedly over the telepage, indicating an emergency. Since we had now completed our catheterization, I hurriedly removed my gown, scrubbed my hands, and went to the nursing station. The message from telepage had been taken—it was simply, "Report to the dean immediately." As a medical student and later as a house officer, I had never had any contact with the dean's office, but I knew that William Taliaferro was the dean, for his face graced the center of every medical class picture on the walls of Billings Hospital corridors. At that moment in my mind's eye I saw him with a stern and sinister look. As I hurried to the dean's office, I wondered if I had done something wrong. Was I behind in summarizing the patients' charts at discharge or death? Was there a complaint from a patient or patients I might somehow have failed to please? Was my chiefof medicine dissatisfied with my performance? There were other thoughts darting in and out of my mind since, for the life of me, I could not imagine why Dean Taliaferro would want to see me. I arrived at the dean's office and told the secretary who I was. She knocked on the dean's closed door and ushered me in. There sat Dean ?Read in part to a private interdisciplinary social club (Stochastics) at the University of Chicago, February 1979. tEmeritus professor, Department of Medicine, Joseph Regenstein professor, Biological and Medical Sciences, University of Chicago. O 1981 by The University of Chicago. 0031-5982/81/2402-0229$01.00 Perspectives in Biology and Medicine · Winter 1981 | 195 Taliaferro, Dr. George Dick (Chairman of Medicine), Dr. Arthur Bachmeyer (Director of Hospitals and Clinics), Dr. Paul Hodges (Chief of Radiology), and two men I had never laid eyes on before. By now my respiratory rate had doubled, my heart was racing at least 125 beats per minute, and my mind was muddled up with vague fears and conjectures. "Hello, Leon. You know Dr. Dick, Dr. Bachmeyer, and Dr. Hodges, of course; meet Professor Wollan and Professor Hilberry. Please have a chair. Leon," he said after we were all seated, "Mr. Hilberry and Mr. Wollan are from the Physics Department. Dean Arthur Compton has talked with Dr. Dick, Dr. Robertson, Dr. Hodges, Dr. Bachmeyer, and me, and we have decided that you are the one they need to help them with a special problem they are having in their research." How could I help Compton and his physics group? I thought. Taliaferro continued. "They are doing research with penetrating radiations produced by the cyclotron, as well as with radioactive substances. They need someone who is a physician and who knows the blood-forming tissue as you do, to keep careful tabs on those who are or may be exposed to these hazards." George Dick and O. H. Robertson were aware of my research on estrogen effects on the bone marrow, the clinical use of radiophosphorus1 for treatment of the leukemias, research on pernicious anemia, and the like. Perhaps, I thought, they can't find anyone else, so they have decided I'm it—sounds like routine stuff to me. George Dick looked at me through his penetrating eyes and said, "Your surveillance of these scientists will be an exciting adventure in preventive medicine and closely related to your special interests in blood and blood-forming tissue. Professors Wollan and Hilberry will give you the background, but I assure...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 195-216
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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