Elda Emma Anderson

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Elda Emma Anderson (October 5, 1899 – April 17, 1961) was an American physicist and health researcher.

Elda Emma Anderson, health physicist, physicist and health researcher

Early life[edit]

Born in Green Lake, Wisconsin to Edwin A. Anderson and his wife Lena née Heller, Elda was one of three children. She had an interest in mathematics at a young age, deciding to become a scientist, inspired by an older sister who for a time was an assistant instructor of chemistry.[1]

She earned a bachelors degree from Ripon College in 1922, then a masters in physics from the University of Wisconsin in 1924. From 1924–1927, she taught at Estherville Junior College in Iowa, where she was the dean of physics and mathematics. In 1929 she became professor of physics at Milwaukee-Downer College, then head of the physics department in 1934.[2]


In 1941 she completed her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. Late in the year she joined the Office of Scientific Research and Development at the Princeton University, where she was directly involved with the Manhattan Project, and was part of the team that developed the atomic bomb.[1] In 1943, she joined the project headquarters at Los Alamos, New Mexico. There she made measurements of subatomic particles produced by cyclotrons, often working for up to sixteen hours a day.[2]

Following the war, in 1947, she returned to teaching at Milwaukee-Downer College. But her involvement in atomic physics led to an interest in the health effects of radiation. In 1949, she left teaching to begin a career in health physics. At the Health Physics Division of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, which was only five years old when she joined, she became the first chief of education and training. In 1960, she established the professional certification agency known as the American Board of Health Physics. She spent her career helping to establish the new training program in health physics, and taught and advised graduate fellows in health physics from 1949 on.[1]

Anderson organized the first international course in her field in Stockholm in 1955, then in Belgium (1957) and Mumbai (1958). She supported the establishment of the Health Physics Society in 1955, serving as secretary pro tem and then charter secretary, eventually serving as president of the Society from 1959-60. She was also secretary of the American Board of Health Physics, and then chair until her death.[1]

In 1956, she developed leukemia.[2] She died in Oak Ridge, Tennessee of breast cancer and leukemia, possibly as the result of her work with radioactivity.[3]

Awards and Honors[edit]

The Elda E. Anderson award of the Health Physics Society was named in her honor.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d Sicherman, Barbara, and Carol Hurd Green (1980). Notable American Women: The Modern Period. Harvard University Press. p. 20. ISBN 9780674627338. 
  2. ^ a b c Yount, Lisa (2008). A to Z of women in science and math. Facts on File library of world history (2nd ed.). Infobase Publishing. p. 7. ISBN 0-8160-6695-7. Retrieved 2011-04-29. 
  3. ^ a b Ogilvie, Marilyn Bailey (2000). Joy Dorothy Harvey, ed. The biographical dictionary of women in science: pioneering lives from ancient times to the mid-20th century, Volume 1. Taylor & Francis US. pp. 33–34. ISBN 0-415-92038-8.