Elda Emma Anderson

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Elda Emma Anderson
Elda Emma Anderson, physicist and health researcher
BornOctober 5, 1899
DiedApril 17, 1961 (aged 61)
Alma materRipon College
University of Wisconsin
Scientific career
InstitutionsEstherville Junior College
Milwaukee-Downer College
Los Alamos Laboratory
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
ThesisLow 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 National 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 and education

Elda Emma Anderson was born in Green Lake, Wisconsin, on October 5, 1899, to Edwin A. Anderson (born in Wisconsin) and his wife, Lena (née Heller) (born in Germany). Anderson was one of three children. Although she was captivated by numbers at an early age, Anderson actually sought to become a kindergarten teacher. This would shift to an interest in science later, partially due to the influence of her older sister, who was an assistant chemistry instructor. As a whole, although her family had certain lofty expectations for their younger daughter, they all supported her in her academic endeavors.[1]

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.[2][3] From 1924 to 1927, she taught at Estherville Junior College in Iowa, where she was the dean of physics, chemistry and mathematics.[4] In 1929, she became professor of physics at Milwaukee-Downer College (an elite women's college later absorbed into Lawrence University), then head of the physics department in 1934.[5]

Career and research

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".[6] Immediately after finishing her PhD, Anderson requested time off from her position at Milwaukee-Downer College, in order to conduct war research related to the Manhattan Project at the Office of Scientific Research and Development at Princeton University. Not long after, Anderson was recruited to continue her work specifically at Los Alamos Laboratory. At her new location, Anderson studied basic fission parameters, including analyzing the time delays associated with the absorption and emission of neutrons. Such work often entailed working upwards of sixteen hours a day.[7][8] Among other accomplishments at Los Alamos, Anderson prepared the first sample of pure uranium-235 at the laboratory.[9] While there, she lived in a dormitory, and being older than most of the other residents (she was aged fifty), she was put in charge.[8] She often worked at night, wearing jeans and a plaid shirt – not the usual attire for a woman at the time.[9]

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.[2][10]

In 1949, Anderson moved to Oak Ridge, Tennessee to become the first chief of education and training in the Health Physics Division of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.[11] Anderson also worked with faculty members at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, to create a master's degree program in health physics at that institution. In addition, she was responsible for training military personnel, state and federal officers and university professors who are currently the leaders in health physics.[12]

Outside of necessary obligations, Anderson was also known for helping students with problems both academic and personal, lending helpful guidance. In some cases, Anderson was known to have given loans to students, as well share a drink in troubling times.[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.[13][14] 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.[15] Despite contracting leukemia in 1956, Anderson remained undeterred in her career and maintained her position for several years until her eventual death in 1961.[8]

Death and legacy

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.[5][16] Anderson was buried at Green Lake Cemetery in Green Lake, Wisconsin. She was survived by her sister, Lucille McConnell and niece, Natalie Tarr Millemann. Dr. Anderson's obituary was well covered in the press and scientific journals.[4][17][18][19] Tributes were written by colleagues and former students.[20][21][22]

Anderson is honored each year at the annual meeting of the Health Physics Society when the Elda E. Anderson Award is presented to a young member of the Society.[16]

Select publications


  1. ^ a b Sicherman, Barbara; Green, Carol Hurd (January 1, 1980). Notable American women: the modern period : a biographical dictionary . Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674627326.
  2. ^ a b Sicherman, Barbara; Carol Hurd Green (1980). Notable American Women: The Modern Period . Harvard University Press. p. 20 . ISBN 9780674627338.
  3. ^ Personnel Roster, circa 1944–1945, Collection A-84-019, Box 4–8, LANL Archives; "Obituaries: Elda E. Anderson," Physics Today 14, no. 7 (1961); "Questionnaires, Ca. 6/45-7/45," Collection A-84-019, LANL Archives, Los Alamos, New Mexico; Patricia Joan Siegel, and Kay Thomas Finley, Women in the Scientific Search: An American Bio-bibliography, 1724–1979 (Metuchen, N.J. and London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1985).
  4. ^ a b Editor. (April 19, 1961). Atom Bomb worker Dies, Dr. Elda Anderson. The Milwaukee Journal. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. p. 16.
  5. ^ a b 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 978-0-8160-6695-7. Retrieved April 29, 2011.
  6. ^ "Low energy levels in the atomic spectra Co VII and Ni VIII" . University of Wisconsin-Madison. Retrieved March 19, 2015.
  7. ^ "History Database Search – Anderson%2C Elda Emma" . www.fofweb.com. Retrieved April 5, 2016.
  8. ^ a b c Howes, Ruth H.; Herzenberg, Caroline L. (December 1, 2015). After the War: US Women in Physics . Morgan & Claypool Publishers. ISBN 9781681741581.
  9. ^ 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 .
  10. ^ Morgan, K. Z. (1965). Graduate Programs for the Health Physicist in the United States. Health Physics. 11(9): 895–915.
  11. ^ Yount, Lisa (2007). A to Z of Women in Science and Math. Infobase Publishing. p. 7.[unreliable source?]
  12. ^ "Elda E. Anderson". Physics Today. 14 (7): 68. 1961. doi:10.1063/1.3057675 .
  13. ^ Anderson, Elda E. (1959). Assignment report on training course for health physicists. Bombay, India. November–December 1958.
  14. ^ Anderson, Elda E. (June 18, 1960). Meetings of the World Health Organization. Technical Program, 1959–1960, p.17. American Society for Metals. Oak Ridge Chapter Yearbook. C'est Bon Restaurant. Knoxville, TN.
  15. ^ Moeller, D. W. (1972). History of the American Board of Health Physics. American Journal of Public Health. 62(2): 247–251.
  16. ^ a b Ogilvie, Marilyn Bailey; Joy Dorothy Harvey (2000). 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.
  17. ^ Oak Ridger. (April 18, 1961). Elda Anderson, Obituary. Oak Ridge, TN.
  18. ^ Health Physics. (May 1961). Obituary. Elda Anderson, Pioneer of Health Physics in the Atomic Energy Program, dies at 61. Health Physics. 5(2): 244.
  19. ^ Physics Today. (July 1961). Elda Anderson, Obituary. Physics Today. 14(7): 68.
  20. ^ Sanders Jr, S. M. (1968). Elda Emma Anderson. Health Physics. 15(3): 217–218.
  21. ^ Mills, W. A. (1969). Elda Emma Anderson. Health Physics. 17(3): 403–404.
  22. ^ Kathren, Ronald L. and Tarr, Natalie E. (November 1974). The Origins of the Health Physics Society. Health Physics. 27(5): 419–428.

External links

Categories: 1899 births | 1961 deaths | 20th-century American physicists | Manhattan Project people | Deaths from cancer in Tennessee | Deaths from leukemia | Deaths from breast cancer | People from Green Lake, Wisconsin | Ripon College (Wisconsin) alumni | University of Wisconsin–Madison College of Letters and Science alumni | Health physicists | Milwaukee-Downer College faculty | People from Estherville, Iowa | Nuclear weapons scientists and engineers | Oak Ridge National Laboratory people | Los Alamos National Laboratory personnel | Princeton University people | Medical physicists | Health Physics Society | Women on the Manhattan Project

Information as of: 08.07.2021 08:08:10 CEST

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