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Introduction of the 37th Annual Lauriston S. Taylor Lecturer: Rear Admiral (ret) John E. Till, PhD

Whicker, F. Ward

doi: 10.1097/HP.0000000000000003
Lauriston S. Taylor Lecture

Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences Colorado State University Fort Collins, CO 80523-1673

The author declares no conflicts of interest.

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IT IS truly an honor and privilege to introduce John Till as the 37th Annual Lauriston S. Taylor Lecturer. John and I have been close friends since I first met him as a graduate student at Colorado State University in 1971. We have also been professional colleagues on numerous projects and national committees for many years. Our relationship has been based on mutual respect and admiration, common scientific interests, and a shared passion for outdoor activities and physical challenges.

In 1967, John received a B.S. degree in Engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy. As a newly-commissioned Naval Officer, he then took several Naval training courses in nuclear engineering and propulsion. In 1972, after his period of active duty in the Navy, he received an M.S. degree in health physics from Colorado State University. He then went on to earn a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1976.

During and after his Ph.D. graduate work, John was a staff scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory from 1974–1977. In 1977, he assumed management of his family’s farm in South Carolina and simultaneously founded the Risk Assessment Corporation (RAC). This allowed him to pursue his scientific interests while operating the farm. Perhaps best known to most is John’s work in environmental dose reconstruction through RAC and his team of professionals. His focus has been clear and consistent:

  • pursue work with potential for significant contributions to science;
  • develop a transparent process for his work, with public participation; and
  • perform unbiased work in a thorough, rigorous, and intellectually honest manner, through funding sources independent from the facility or program under study.

These principles have led to great success in the completion of numerous major dose reconstruction efforts in the United States, for example at the Hanford Site in Washington State, the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, the Fernald Site in Ohio, Rocky Flats in Colorado, Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and thyroid doses in Utah from weapons testing in Nevada. RAC has achieved a legendary reputation for scientific credibility and trust, not to mention success in obtaining declassification of many key government documents. In the eyes of the public and the radiation protection community, John and his team have essentially defined the meaning of the word “credibility.”

John and his team have undertaken the extra effort to publish their work in the open literature whenever possible. He has produced two landmark textbooks on radiological assessment that document state-of-the-art models used to predict the transport of, and dose from, radionuclides released to the environment. The latest book, Radiological Risk Assessment and Environmental Analysis, was published by Oxford University Press in 2008. He has authored or co-authored well over 200 technical reports and peer-reviewed publications and has served in numerous editorial roles for scientific journals. John and his team have offered many formal, in-depth courses in radiological and chemical risk assessment for professionals.

John was first elected as a member of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) in 1984 and has long served the organization in many capacities, for example as Vice President for Environmental Issues, on the Board of Directors, and often chairing numerous committees. He is presently a Distinguished Emeritus Member and chairs Scientific Committee 6–8. He has served in many capacities, often as chair, for a long list of agencies and organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences, the International Commission on Radiological Protection, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the International Atomic Energy Agency, the National Cancer Institute, and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

In 1983, he received the Health Physics Society’s Elda Anderson Award in recognition of his exceptional promise as a young scientist in the radiation protection field. Then in 1995, in recognition of his longer-term achievements in science related to nuclear energy, he received the U.S. Department of Energy’s prestigious E.O. Lawrence Award.

Rear Admiral (ret) John Till has a long and distinguished career with the U.S. Navy. Beginning in 1967, he served 4 y of active duty in the Nuclear Submarine Force. Following his period of active duty, John was very active in the Naval Reserve Program until he retired as Rear Admiral in 1999. During this time, he was Commanding Officer for several Reserve Readiness Commands and Deputy Commander for the Atlantic Submarine Fleet. I was told by a fellow Admiral that John had done as much as anyone to revitalize the U.S. Naval Reserve Program. Rear Admiral (ret) Till received some 10 military medals and awards, including the Meritorious Service Medal, the National Defense Medal, and the Legion of Merit.

In addition to his scientific and military achievements, John has found the time and energy to manage and completely modernize the Embeford Farm near Neeses, South Carolina. This 1,000-acre family farm was primarily a dairy operation when John took it over. Later on, John was able to sell the dairy cows and focus on growing crops, which provided him with more time to focus on science and the work of RAC. Today, his farm is state-of-the-art. In addition to being quite successful, it serves as a beautiful retreat for him and his wife, Susan.

John loves outdoor adventures and physical challenges. For example, he climbed Mount Rainier in Washington State, a difficult and technical 3 d effort, without prior training in mountaineering. With only very limited training for bicycling, he came out to Colorado, biked 80 miles over a major pass from Fort Collins to my cabin, got up next morning and mountain biked 15 miles over steep, rocky jeep trails to a remote trailhead, climbed a 13,000 foot peak, biked back to my cabin, showered, then picked up the phone to conduct business about the farm and ongoing dose reconstructions. John is also an accomplished downhill skier.

John has been a lifelong friend and colleague of a great number of people. He is a dedicated family man with four children and eight grandchildren. He chooses people for his research team with great care and treats each colleague with genuine respect and friendship. Given the many “hats” he has worn, and worn so well, John Till is truly remarkable. The field of radiation protection has benefitted greatly from John’s knowledge, honesty, and dedication. Clearly, he adds considerable luster to the distinguished list of Lauriston S. Taylor Lecturers.

Introduction of the Taylor Lecture (Video 1:36,

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