Lives of the fellows

Itsuzo Shigematsu

b.25 November 1917 d.6 February 2012
MPH FRCP(1992)

Itsuzo Shigematsu was internationally renowned in the field of radiation epidemiology and a Japanese expert on public health. Born in Osaka, he was educated at the Osaka High School and studied medicine at Tokyo Imperial University. Following qualification in 1931, he became a surgeon in the navy and served on the cruiser Kuma and various military bases. He was in Raboul, Papua New Guinea, when the progress of the Second World War started to run against Japan in 1942, was present during the worst of the conflict and when the war ended.

Based in the department of epidemiology at the National Institute of Public Health (NIPH), he spent 15 years leading Japan’s epidemiological research at a time when the field was in its infancy. He also studied in the USA at this time, obtaining a Master of Public Health degree from Harvard University. Appointed professor of public health at the Kanazawa University School of Medicine in 1962, he remained there for four years before returning to the NIPH as chief of the epidemiology department. After 15 years, during which he took on various roles as an acknowledged expert in public health and epidemiology, he retired from the NIPH and became chairman of the Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF) in 1981.

At the RERF he was able to use his skills as an epidemiologist to fully exploit the data produced by long term follow up studies of the A-bomb survivors which had been compiled by the RERF’s predecessor, the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission. He established a dose assessment system known as DS86. Using this measure, international radiation protection standards have been established on the basis of RERF’s reports on radiation risks.

Already known internationally, he achieved a new prominence after the Chernobyl accident in 1986 and he took on various positions with the World Health Organization and the International Atomic Energy Authority. Recognition of his work was acknowledged by awards from many countries besides his own, including Sweden and Russia.

He retired as chairman of RERF in 1997 at the age of 80, having been chairman for 16 years. Continuing as consultant emeritus he went on giving lectures and publishing papers and books until he entered hospital in April 2011 for the treatment of an aortic aneurysm. After various complications, he rallied for a while but died the following February.

RCP editor

[J Radiol Prot 2012 32 359-60 – accessed 6 October 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

<< Back to List