The Early Years of Nuclear Medicine: A Retelling

Document Type : History and perspective


1 Department of Nuclear Medicine, Philippine Heart Center, Philippine General Hospital, University of the Philippines,Philippines

2 Curator, Dr. Saul Hertz Archives, United States of America


Nuclear medicine history has its share of captivating personalities, controversial claims, and forgotten pioneers. Publications and documents that came out relatively recently, provide us with new perspectives on its history. Primary sourced material might contradict some of the long-held beliefs of the reader who only has a casual familiarity with the events, including basics such as who discovered radioactivity.
Because of the nature of the specialty, the importance of the contributions of colleagues in related fields, like physics and chemistry, cannot be overstated. Many of the important discoveries were marked by serendipity, but the pioneers must be given credit for having the necessary insights to interpret the new phenomena correctly, sometimes turning perceived “failure” into novel scientific principles. In addition, most of our pioneers had to deal with inadequate facilities and funding, religious and racial discrimination, and even misogynism.
The early history of nuclear medicine is presented in this article as a series of its most interesting anecdotes, from the early work on radioactivity, to the conception of the tracer principle, until the development of radioactive iodine therapy.


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