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Elda Emma Anderson

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Elda Emma Anderson
Elda Anderson.jpg
Elda Emma Anderson, physicist and health researcher
Born (1899-10-05)October 5, 1899
Green Lake, Wisconsin
Died April 17, 1961(1961-04-17) (aged 61)
Washington, DC
Nationality American
Fields Physicist
Institutions Estherville Junior College
Milwaukee-Downer College
Los Alamos Laboratory
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Alma mater Ripon College
University of Wisconsin
Thesis Low energy levels in the atomic spectra Co VII and Ni VIII (1941)

Elda Emma Anderson (October 5, 1899 – April 17, 1961) was an American physicist and health researcher. During World War II, she worked on the Manhattan Project at Princeton University and the Los Alamos Laboratory, where she prepared the first sample of pure uranium-235 at the laboratory. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, she became professor of physics at Milwaukee-Downer College in 1929. After the war, she became interested in health physics. She worked in the Health Physics Division of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and established the professional certification agency known as the American Board of Health Physics.

Early life[edit]

Elda Emma Anderson was born in Green Lake, Wisconsin, on October 5, 1899, to Edwin A. Anderson and his wife, Lena (née Heller). Elda was one of three siblings. She had an interest in mathematics from a young age and decided to become a scientist. Anderson earned a Bachelor of Arts (AB) degree from Ripon College in 1922, then a master of arts (AM) in physics from the University of Wisconsin in 1924.[1] From 1924 to 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]

Career[edit]

In 1941 Anderson completed her PhD at the University of Wisconsin, writing her thesis on "Low energy levels in the atomic spectra Co VII and Ni VIII".[3] Later that year she joined the Office of Scientific Research and Development at Princeton University, where she was involved with the Manhattan Project.[1] In 1943, she joined the Los Alamos Laboratory, where she made measurements of subatomic particles produced by cyclotrons, sometimes working for up to sixteen hours a day.[2] Anderson prepared the first sample of pure uranium-235 at the laboratory.[4] She lived in a dormitory. Being older than most of the other women in the dormitory, she was put in charge. She often worked at night, wearing jeans and a plaid shirt – not the usual attire for a woman at the time.[4]

Following the war, in 1947, Anderson left Los Alamos and 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. She spent her career helping to establish the new training program in health physics, teaching and advising graduate fellows in health physics from 1949.[1]

Anderson organized the first international course in her field in Stockholm in 1955; she organized similar courses in Belgium in 1957 and Mumbai in 1958. She supported the establishment of the Health Physics Society in 1955, serving as secretary pro tem and then charter secretary, and eventually as president of the Society from 1959 to 1960. In 1960, she established the professional certification agency known as the American Board of Health Physics. She was its chair until her death.[1]

Death and legacy[edit]

In 1956, Anderson, who never married and had no children, developed leukemia. She died nearly five years later in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, of breast cancer and leukemia, possibly as the result of her work with radioactive materials, on April 17, 1961.[2][5] The Elda E. Anderson award of the Health Physics Society was named in her honor.[5]

Notes[edit]

  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. p. 7. ISBN 0-8160-6695-7. Retrieved April 29, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Low energy levels in the atomic spectra Co VII and Ni VIII". University of Wisconsin-Madison. Retrieved March 19, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Howes, Ruth H.; Herzenberg, Caroline L. (1999). Their Day in the Sun: Women of the Manhattan Project. Temple University. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-585-38881-6. OCLC 49569088. 
  5. ^ 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 1. Taylor & Francis US. pp. 33–34. ISBN 0-415-92038-8. 

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