In Memoriam: George Samuel Hurst


By John A. Auxier, CHP

The health physics profession lost an outstanding scientific contributor to our profession on 4 July 2010. George Samuel Hurst (Sam) was born 13 October 1927 in Bell County, Kentucky. He enrolled in Berea College at age 15 and got his BA in physics in 1946. He went on to get his MS in physics from the University of Kentucky in 1948 and joined the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

Sam worked as a researcher in the Health Physics Division, where he made many major contributions, especially in neutron dosimetry and spectroscopy, plus numerous significant contributions in instrumentation and field analysis. While working at ORNL, he continued his academic career at the University of Tennessee and received his PhD in 1959. He travelled to Japan with colleagues to study latent disease effects and mortality rates of atomic bomb survivors.

Sam loved his home-state alma mater and served as professor of physics at the University of Kentucky in the late 1960s. Returning to ORNL, Hurst’s career took an exciting new direction into ultra-sensitive laser-based spectroscopy. He held over 30 patents and authored numerous technical papers. He invented the original computer touch screen.

Sam’s insatiable curiosity and optimistic enthusiasm for the world around him were rivaled only by his unconditional love of family and friends. In addition to his intellect, Sam’s great strength was the ability to see broad relationships and potential between what appeared to others to be unrelated facts and to put his mind to work at such a high focus that he could eliminate all extraneous noises and distractions. We have lost a great scientist.