The Chicago Physician Who Understood the Paradox of Radiation

Emil Herman Grubbe Discovered That X-Rays Could Cure, but He Was Right for the Wrong Reasons

Emil H. Grubbe

Radiation is a paradox. On the one hand, it’s a lifesaving tool. As powerful energy that can pass through solid matter, it’s often used in medicine for everything from diagnostic X-rays to cancer therapy. But radiation also can be deadly. If handled carelessly, it causes cancer.

No one was better witness to the split personality of radiation than Chicago physician Emil Herman Grubbe, who lived from 1875 to 1960. He was the first to recognize that radiation might cure cancer. But he, like many American innovators, learned it the hard …

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