In Memoriam: James E. Turner


by Roger Cloutier, CHP, and Sam Hurst

Jim Turner, a well-respected research physicist, educator, author, and friend to many health physicists, passed away on 29 December 2008. After graduating from Emory University in 1951, Jim began his health physics career with an Atomic Energy Commission Fellowship (AEC) to Vanderbilt University. Upon completing that fellowship, he received a second AEC Fellowship that allowed him to attend Harvard University, where he received an MS. Next a Fulbright Scholarship in Germany allowed him to become fluent in German. While studying nuclear physics in Germany, he met Renate, who became his wife for almost 50 years before she died in 2005.

Upon Jim’s return to the United States, he completed his PhD at Vanderbilt and for two years taught at Yale University before joining the AEC Radiological Physics (health physics) Section in 1958. This four-year assignment acquainted Jim with many of the early AEC activities in health physics that served him well through the rest of his career.

In 1962, Jim joined the health physics research staff at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and his research efforts resulted in his appointment as an ORNL Corporate Fellow, a title given to few. Internationally, Jim served as a consultant to the Bhabha Atomic Research Center in India and the Institute for Nuclear Energy in Brazil. He also spent several periods of time working on cojoint projects at the GSF-Institute in Germany. During his career, Jim was author or coauthor of more than 400 scientific papers.

Not content with just performing research, Jim taught health physics courses at the University of Tennessee. Along the way, he and Sam Hurst coauthored a book titled Elementary Radiation Physics. With Jim Bogard, Jerry Hunt, and Tony Rhea he coauthored Problems and Solutions in Radiation Protection. Jim is perhaps best known as author of Atoms, Radiation, and Radiation Protection (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.), which was recently greatly revised and has now been released as the third edition.

Jim has served the Health Physics Society (HPS) and the American Academy of Health Physics in many ways. He served on the HPS Board of Directors from 1980 to 1983 and was an editor of Health Physics from 1974 to 1979. He was the radiation basics topic editor for the HPS website Ask the Experts feature from 2001 to 2008. He received the HPS Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award in 1992 and the American Board of Health Physics William A. McAdams Award in 2000.

Fellow health physicists and especially his students will long remember Jim’s ready willingness to share his health physics knowledge with them.

In addition to Jim’s many friends and colleagues, he leaves behind two sons, Tom and Bill, and a daughter, Susan Vaughan, as well as several grandchildren. Jim requested that donations made in his memory be directed to his and Renate’s favorite charitable program—Keystone Elder Care Center, 1350 Oak Ridge Turnpike, Oak Ridge, TN 37830.