DOI: 10.1186/s40658-017-0182-7Pages: 1-7

Saul Hertz, MD, and the birth of radionuclide therapy

1. Harvard Medical School, Department of Radiology

2. Boston Children’s Hospital, Department of Radiology

3. Mount Auburn Hospital, Department of Radiology

4. Massachusetts General Hospital, Department of Radiology

Correspondence to:
Frederic H. Fahey



The year, 2016, marked the 75th anniversary of Dr. Saul Hertz first using radioiodine to treat a patient with thyroid disease. In November of 1936, a luncheon was held of the faculty of Harvard Medical School where Karl Compton, PhD, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was invited to give a presentation entitled “What Physics Can Do for Biology and Medicine.” Saul Hertz who attended the luncheon spontaneously asked the very pertinent question that perhaps changed the course of treatment of thyroid disease, “Could iodine be made radioactive artificially?” We review the events leading up to the asking of this question, the preclinical investigations by Dr. Hertz and his colleague Arthur Roberts prior to the treatment of the first patient and what occurred in the years following this landmark event. This commentary seeks to set the record straight to the sequence of events leading to the first radioiodine therapy, so that those involved can be recognized with due credit.

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  • Accepted: Apr 12, 2017
  • Online: Apr 27, 2017

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