Jan. 10, 2002
Vol. 21 No. 7

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    Professor in Radiology dies at age 80

    An authority on the use of radiation to treat cancer, Lawrence Lanzl, Professor Emeritus in Radiology and the Franklin McLean Memorial Research Institute at the University, died Sunday, Dec. 23, at the University Hospitals. He was 80.

    Lanzl was a pioneer in medical physics, a field that came into prominence during World War II with the development of nuclear reactors and the production of radioactive isotopes, which were used for both diagnostic and therapeutic medical procedures.In the 1950s he helped design the linear accelerator, perhaps the first such device designed for use in a medical setting. He designed a special unit for treating patients with a radioactive isotope of the element cobalt, produced by a reactor, and he designed the first tissue-equivalent plastic and bone phantom, a life-sized manikin created to help scientists measure the depth and distribution of various forms of radiation therapy. The information this provided allowed physicians to improve the precision of radiation dosing.

    Together with his colleague Lester Skaggs, Lanzl was instrumental in beginning and developing the University’s graduate program in medical physics, which trained many of the leaders in the field. “Larry was a fine person to work with,” recalled Skaggs, now a Professor Emeritus in Radiology and Cellular Oncology. “He was ambitious, enthusiastic, hard working and clever, but nice and easy to get along with, and absolutely trustworthy.”

    Robert Beck, Professor Emeritus in Radiology, said of his late colleague, “Larry Lanzl was a font of information on the interaction of radiation with matter, and he was willing to take the time to explain whatever he knew. I think he genuinely wanted to help people, his patients, his colleagues––he wanted to help mankind. Once the war was over, I think he was excited about the opportunity to use atomic energy to help people.”

    After retiring in 1980, Lanzl continued his teaching and research career at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center. He set up a graduate program in medical physics there and served as professor and chairman of the department of medical physics and as radiation safety officer, until 1991. He remained active in teaching until a few months before his death.

    The author of scores of papers and several books, Lanzl won many awards for his research. He served as President of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine from 1966 to 1967 and of the International Organization for Medical Physics from 1985 to 1988. He served as a consultant on radiation safety and radiation therapy for the World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the United States Atomic Energy Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency. He was the editor of Health Physics from 1979 to 1983 and Medical Physics World from 1983 to 1985. In 1993, The Lawrence Lanzl Institute of Medical Physics, in Seattle, Washington, was named in his honor.

    Lanzl is survived by his wife, Elisabeth Lanzl, an editor for the Franklin McLean Memorial Research Institute; one son, Eric Lanzl, and his wife, Edith Finsaadal of Chicago; and a daughter, Barbara Lanzl Beutler of Rhinelander, Wisc., and her three sons, Daniel, Elliott and Jonathan.

    Two sisters, Mary Redmond of Lake Forest, Ill., and Elsa Betty Noreiko of Alexandria, Va., and a brother, Carl Lanzl, of Los Angeles, Calif., also survive him.