Shields Warren

February 26, 1898 - July 1, 1980

Scientific Discipline: Medical Genetics, Hematology, and Oncology
Membership Type:
Member (elected 1962)

Shields Warren was a pathologist who specialized in the medical and biological effects of radiation.  He was one of the first scientists to observe the diagnostic and therapeutic potentials of radioactive isotopes.  Warren’s research focused primarily on cancer, thyroid disorders, diabetes, and atomic radiation.  During his cancer research in 1932, he discovered that susceptibility to cancer varied from person to person.  This study laid the foundation for future investigations on vulnerability and immunity to tumors.  He also helped to establish the field of radiobiology by determining that certain mammal tissues were more susceptible to radiation damage, therefore disproving the Law of Bergonie and Tribondeau.  During World War II, he served as a Captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve, and after Japan’s surrender in 1945, Warren led the medical section of the Naval Technical Mission that aimed to aid and study the survivors of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  This was the first systematic study of radioactive fallout ever conducted. 

Warren received his A.B. degree from Boston University and his M.D. degree from Harvard University in 1918 and 1923, respectively.  In 1927, he became the chief pathologist at the New England Deaconess Hospital in Boston and held the position for over 50 years.  During this time, Warren was also a renowned professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School.  He also served as a director of several scientific organizations, such as the Massachusetts State Tumor Diagnostic Service (1928-1955) and the Division of Biology and Medicine for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (1947-1952).  Warren was the recipient of numerous awards for his extensive pathological research, the most notable of which were the Burdick Award from the American Society of Clinical Pathologists in 1948, the American Cancer Society Medal in 1952, the Banting Medal from the American Diabetes Association in 1953, and the Albert Einstein Award and Medal in 1962.

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