March 15, 2001
Vol. 20 No. 12

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    John Rust, Professor Emeritus in Radiology, dies at age 91

    A pioneer in understanding the biological effects of exposure to radiation, John Rust, Professor Emeritus in Radiology and Pharmacological & Physiological Sciences, died Feb. 11, at the University Hospitals from complications from leukemia. He was 91.

    Rust combined early training in veterinary pathology with subsequent interest in radiation biology to become one of the world’s foremost experts on the nature of radiation injury. Beginning in 1950, he performed a series of classic studies to determine how different forms of radiation affected various farm animals. His findings became the standard models for estimating human risk.

    “John Rust was a very complex character, one of the pioneers in the development of nuclear medicine and an authority on the behavior of radioisotopes, but he wore this immense knowledge very lightly,” said John Fennessy, Professor in Radiology. “He did not flaunt his intellect.”

    Rust trained to be a veterinarian, earning his D.V.M. degree from Kansas State University in 1932. In 1935, he entered the United States Army Veterinary Corps. In the Army, he received additional training in medicine, biophysics and radiation biology at Chicago and Duke University.

    In 1950 he was sent to Oak Ridge, Tenn., to serve as the pathologist for the Atomic Energy Commission’s Agricultural Research Program, which studied the effects of radiation on farm animals. In 1954, still in the Army, he returned to Chicago as a research project officer at a toxicity laboratory, where he studied the effects of radiation on metabolism. While performing this research, he earned his Ph.D. in pharmacology in 1956 from the University.

    He retired from the Army in 1958.

    He joined the Chicago faculty in 1959 and helped design and served as director of the animal research facility at the University from 1967 to 1972. In 1992, he was part of a team of western scientists and engineers who visited the site of the Chernobyl accident.

    He served on various committees for the World Health Organization, the National Research Council, the U.S. Public Health Service and the National Academy of Science.

    His wife of 57 years, Mary Jo, died in 1989. They are survived by their four children: Mary Townsend of Newton, Mass.; James Rust of Evanston, Ill.; Jack Rust of Irving, Texas; and Joan Johnson of Willowbrook, Ill.; and by eight grandchildren and five great grandchildren.