Feb. 6, 1997
Vol. 16, No. 10

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    Obituary: Paul Hodges, Radiology

    Paul Chesley Hodges, Professor Emeritus in Radiology and a pioneer in the field of diagnostic radiology, died Dec. 27 in Green Bay, Wis. He was 103.

    The first Chairman of Radiology at the University, Hodges was known worldwide as an imaginative inventor of diagnostic machines and systems, as a mentor for researchers in this developing field and as the man who built a world-class Department of Radiology at the University.

    "He had an enormous influence on the development of modern radiology, on the evolution of the equipment we now use, the systems put in place to organize the field, and the training of new researchers, many of whom became chairmen of radiology at other institutions," said John Fennessy, Professor in Radiology.

    Hodges is perhaps best known as one of the developers -- along with medical student Russell Morgan, who went on to become the chairman of radiology at Johns Hopkins University -- of the phototimer, a device that automatically calculates the optimal x-ray exposure to produce a high-quality diagnostic image. Their device, unveiled in 1942, not only improved the quality of diagnostic x-rays, but also reduced the dose of radiation necessary, ensured greater consistency between images and reduced the need for repeat exams.

    Although the inventors patented the device, which became standard on most x-ray machines, they allowed manufacturers to use it freely and accepted only one dollar each in exchange for making their invention available.

    Hodges also built a series of dedicated x-ray machines in the 1930s and 1940s that were designed to produce images of specific sections of the body, such as the skull, chest or pelvis. These devices allowed better imaging of specific body parts with lower doses of radiation than the standard, all-purpose x-ray machines of the time.

    As department chairman, he devised what are now standard methods of organizing image collection and storage. Hodges was the first to create convenient systems to imprint patient identification data onto the radiographic image and to implement a color-coded arrangement for storing films, two simple innovations that quickly became indispensable.

    "Hodges was a world-class experimentalist," said Robert Beck, Professor in Radiology and Director of the Center for Imaging Science. "He established what may have been the first dedicated radiology machine shop in North America, where he led a team that designed and built most of the department's equipment."

    Fennessy said, "When I came to the University in the 1960s, everything was homemade and far superior to what was commercially available."

    Hodges gained his tinkering skills through long experience. He grew up in Ashland, Wis., where his father and uncle, both physicians, operated and staffed the town's community hospital. Hodges was 8 when his father died, and at 14 he became an "apprentice" to his physician uncle and learned to operate the area's only x-ray machine. He made his first radiologic diagnosis, a fractured fibula, at age 15.

    He worked his way through the University of Wisconsin by running the x-ray machine at Madison General Hospital, completing the requirements for his B.S. in 1915. He received his M.D. from Washington University in St. Louis in 1918.

    After two years of radiology experience in the U.S. Army and four years as a professor and later as director of radiology at the Peking University Medical College, he returned to Madison to complete his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin, receiving his Ph.D. in 1924. He then moved back to Peking, where he directed the radiology program from 1924 to 1927, when he was recruited to direct the radiology program at Chicago.

    Hodges published scores of scientific articles and two books. He was awarded many honors, including the certificate of appreciation, the highest civilian award given by the War Department, in 1947, for his efforts to improve the Army's radiologic capabilities during World War II.

    Hodges remained active at Chicago and elsewhere after his retirement from the University in 1958. In addition to serving as a visiting professor at several universities and as a consultant for equipment manufacturers, he established the first Taiwanese program in radiation therapy at the University of Taipei.

    He is survived by a son, Paul Hodges Jr., of Green Bay; a daughter, Mrs. Phil Rogers of Dallas, Texas; 11 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren.