In Memoriam: Constantine J. Maletskos


by Frank Masse, CHP

Constantine J. Maletskos, PhD, CHP, "Costa" to his family and friends, died peacefully at his home on 19 October 2015 at the age of 94. Born in Boston of Greek immigrants, Costa spoke only Greek when he first entered public school. He could not recall learning English, but he knew that he was raised in Boston because it was his parents' wish that he attend Boston Latin High School to prepare for an education at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), all of which he clearly fulfilled.

After earning a BS in quantitative biology at MIT in 1942, he spent the summer as a technical assistant in the MIT Radioactivity Center, under the directorship of Professor Robley D. Evans, who encouraged him to change his major to physics. He received his master's degree in biophysics in 1943. His education was interrupted by World War II military service, first as a battalion radar officer (mainly as an instructor in the "Radiation Lab" at MIT where military radar was being developed), then as a physicist in the "Bomb Lab" at MIT. After the war ended, he returned to academics at MIT in 1946, resuming teaching assignments in biology and research activities at the Radioactivity Center, while continuing graduate study in both biology and physics and later expanding into chemistry.

In 1954 he qualified for a PhD in biology, physics, and chemistry, followed by a thesis based on the study of calcium metabolism in dogs, with calcium chosen as a surrogate for radium to better understand the metabolism of radium, a primary interest of the Radioactivity Center. The preparation for and content of his thesis were sufficient to satisfy the requirements of each of the three scientific disciplines included in this degree.

Costa continued his research with Evans at the Radioactivity Center, with his main focus at that time on upgrading whole-body counting with scintillation detectors and multichannel analyzers to improve measurement of radium and thorium in vivo. This work supported Evans' earlier findings on radium and thorium metabolism, all of which led to the regulatory establishment of maximum permissible body burdens for radium and thorium. The results were used in International Commission on Radiological Protection Publication 30.

He was gradually drawn into the planning for the MIT Research Reactor, and in 1956 he became the reactor radiation protection officer, a newly created position in the MIT Medical Department. He continued his active involvement with the MIT reactor until startup was complete and the reactor was in routine operation, returning to the Radioactivity Center in 1960. He continued to serve on the MIT Reactor Safeguards Committee, thus maintaining an active connection with the MIT Research Reactor until resigning in his late 80s, a span of approximately 50 years. Some of his Radioactivity Center research in the 1960s involved the application of radiotracers to forensic medicine, and he spent time as a lecturer in legal medicine and pathology at Harvard Medical School and as a senior research associate at the Cancer Research Institute at New England Deaconess Hospital.

In 1972 Costa found that the demands for his involvement in numerous interesting multidisciplinary problems and projects were such that he could best satisfy his ambition and curiosity as an independent consultant, while continuing his intermittent involvement at the MIT Radioactivity Center. Many of us have witnessed the positive effects of his consulting activities in early nuclear power-plant-siting issues, environmental studies around nuclear facilities, low-level radioactive waste disposal issues, and, most prominently, radiation litigation issues. As a consultant to the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP), he served as reviewer and editor on more than a dozen NCRP published reports from 1976 to 2004, and his bibliography lists 90 published peer-reviewed papers and more than 100 presentations at scientific meetings and conferences.

Costa's Health Physics Society (HPS) involvement began in 1961, when he joined the Society and its New England Chapter shortly after then HPS President Elda Anderson's annual meeting in Boston in 1960. He became a board member of the HPS New England Chapter in 1966, served on several committees, and was New England Chapter president in 1985â??1986. He agreed to conduct a six-month evening review course for interested New England Chapter candidates for professional certification during the first decade of the American Board of Health Physics (ABHP), joining those applicants when it came time to sit for the ABHP exam. The effort was a great success, resulting in several new certified health physicists, including Costa. He served as chairman of the Program Committee for the 1971 HPS Annual Meeting, was elected a member of the HPS Board of Directors and appointed the Board member of the HPS Finance Committee from 1984 to 1987, and served as academic dean for the HPS summer school in 1995, publishing a textbook on the contents of that summer school on nuclear power plant radiation protection. In 1987 he was awarded Fellow membership in the HPS. At the 1997 HPS Annual Meeting Awards Banquet, he became the recipient of the Robley D. Evans Medal, which recognized his broad-based, multidisciplinary lifetime achievements in health physics. Appropriately, Costa was the first to receive that prestigious award, which was created to honor his long-time mentor and colleague, the 17th president of the HPS. Although Costa was a member of many professional societies, HPS was always his favorite and the one to which he devoted his greatest effort.

Costa lived his entire life in Massachusetts, summering in Gloucester with an aunt and uncle, a well-known Gloucester sculptor, in his college years. He met his future wife, a budding artist, when she visited Gloucester as a student of his uncle, and they settled permanently in Gloucester for the rest of their lives. He was active in many local and state-wide activities, serving on various city boards and committees, including a multiyear stint as chairman of a committee building a major addition to the public library. That library and the museum where his wife's and uncle's artworks are prominently displayed were favorite local interests. He served 10 years as chairman of the Massachusetts Governor's Advisory Council on Radiation Protection, in addition to several other statewide committee and board assignments.

Costa was predeceased by his wife, Mary, in 1993, and his youngest son, John, who died in 2012, following a lifetime struggle with the effects of a congenital heart defect. He is survived by his son, George Maletskos of Gloucester, and his daughter and her husband, Ethel M. and John L. Martin of Falmouth, Massachusetts.

Costa will be fondly remembered by all who had the privilege of knowing him during his long and productive life. His meticulous quest for perfection in every undertaking is an example for us all.