Arthur C. Upton

Lives Lived

Arthur C. Upton


Fall-Winter 2015
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Arthur C. Upton (M.D. 1946, Residency 1949), most recently of Santa Fe, New Mexico, died Feb. 14 at the age of 92.

Upton was a celebrated pathologist and leader in the field of radiation science. He served as director of the National Cancer Institute, or NCI, and was also past president of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Upton was born Feb. 27, 1923, in Ann Arbor. When he was a child, his mother contracted pneumonia, an illness that was often fatal at the time. But under the care of a passionate family doctor, his mother recovered. It was then that Upton decided to become a physician.

At first, Upton wanted to pursue family medicine, but his interests shifted to laboratory research and pathology. He was compelled to understand disease at its most basic level. After completing his residency at U-M, he became a researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Later, he was the founding dean of the School of Basic Health Sciences at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he was also a member of the Department of Pathology.

Renowned in the field of radiation pathology, Upton was considered an expert on the effects of ionizing radiation.

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Upton as director of the NCI, a position he held until 1979. In this role, Upton oversaw research on cancer, its treatments and its causes. He provided guidance on many public health issues, including the Three Mile Island accident and radiation exposure in mammography.

“As a colleague and friend, Art taught me much about both decency and the politics of biomedical science,” says Dan Fox, Ph.D., president emeritus of the Milbank Memorial Fund, the oldest endowed foundation in health care and public health in the nation, who worked with Upton at the Health Sciences Center. “I have never known anyone so loved.”

Upton also served as president of the International Association for Radiation Research, the American Society for Experimental Pathology and the Radiation Research Society. He was an elected fellow of the Institute of Medicine and honorary life member of the New York Academy of Sciences.

Illustration from the National Cancer Institute, created by Betsy Upton