John R. Cunningham

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John Cunningham
John Robert "Jack" Cunningham receiving the Order of Canada
John Robert Shepherd

(1927-01-05)January 5, 1927
DiedJanuary 4, 2020(2020-01-04) (aged 92)
Alma materUniversity of Toronto
OccupationMedical physicist
Years active1951-2020
OrganizationPrincess Margaret Cancer Centre

John Robert Cunningham, OC, (January 5, 1927 – January 4, 2020) was a Canadian medical physicist noted for his contributions in the development of computerized radiation treatment planning dose calculations in radiation therapy.

Early life and education[edit]

Cunningham, known as Jack, received his B.Eng. in Engineering Physics (1950) and M.Sc. in Radiation Physics (1951) from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. In 1955 he completed his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in Physics. After working for the Canada's Defense Research Board, he became a staff Medical Physicist at Toronto's Ontario Cancer Institute / Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in 1958.


During his medical physics career, Cunningham published over 70 peer-reviewed papers,[1] book chapters, and conference proceedings, and is widely known for co-authoring The Physics of Radiology (1953) with Dr. Harold E. Johns.[2] The final fourth edition (1983) remains a staple in medical physics education for medical physicists, technologists, and physicians. He is a pioneer in developing computational techniques for calculating absorbed dose from radiation beams,[3] and computer software and algorithms he developed continue to be used in both commercial and open source treatment planning systems. Upon retirement from clinical medical physics in 1989, Cunningham became a consultant with Theratronics/MDS Nordion (Kanata, Ontario) until 1998 when he moved to Camrose Alberta.


He was an Adjunct Professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton and regularly lectured at the Cross Cancer Institute in the Department of Medical Physics until 2018. He and his wife Sheila lived in Calgary, Alberta, until his death on January 4, 2020, one day before his 93rd birthday.[4]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 1988 he was awarded the highest award given by the American Association of Physicists in Medicine, the William D. Coolidge Award[5] for his contributions to the field. In 2005, Cunningham was inducted as an Officer of the Order of Canada.[6] In 2006, he received the Canadian Organization of Medical Physicists Gold Medal Award[7] for "outstanding contribution[s] to the field of medical physics in Canada".


  1. ^ "PubMed Search for JR Cunningham". NCBI. PubMed. Retrieved January 25, 2017.
  2. ^ Johns & Cunningham (1983). Physics of Radiology (4 ed.). USA: Charles C Thomas. ISBN 0-398-04669-7.
  3. ^ Cunningham, JR (1989). "Development of computer algorithms for radiation treatment planning". Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 16 (6): 1367–76. doi:10.1016/0360-3016(89)90937-1. PMID 2722584.
  4. ^ "John "Jack" Cunningham Obituary - Calgary, AB". Dignity Memorial.
  5. ^ "William Coolidge Award, AAPM". American Association of Medical Physicists. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  6. ^ Cunningham, John. "Officer of the Order of Canada". Governor General.
  7. ^ Cunningham, JR. "COMP Gold Medal Recipients". COMP-OCMP. Retrieved 25 January 2017.