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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Joseph Howland

Assistant Chief of Medical ResearchOak Ridge, TN

University of Rochester
Manhattan Project VeteranMilitary VeteranScientistSpecial Engineer Detachment
Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Joe W. Howland was a medical officer in charge of special problems in the US Army, stationed in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Rochester, New York during the Manhattan Project.

Howland was born in Plain City, Ohio on December 21, 1908. He first pursued a career in zoology, earning both a Masters and a Ph.D. in Zoology from Ohio State University by 1931. In 1933, he started as a medical student at the University of Rochester. He received his medical degree at age 30 in 1938. 

He worked at the University of Rochester Medical Center until 1944, when he joined the Armed Forces as part of the Manhattan Project of the Corps of Engineers. His title was medical officer in charge of special problems. At the end of 1943, the University of Rochester had established a Metabolic Ward at the Strong Memorial Hospital at the request of the Manhattan Engineer District in order to measure the metabolic effects of radioactive materials on humans. Stafford Warren was also working at the University of Rochester when General Leslie R. Groves as Chief Medical Officer of the Manhattan Engineer District hired him. A specialist in pathology, Howland was involved in designing toxicity experiments to establish occupational minimums for radioactive materials.

By 1945, Howland was assigned to Oak Ridge Tennessee as the Assistant Chief of Medical Research for the Manhattan Project.  During his assignment in Oak Ridge, he was implicated in the controversial human injection experiments. In a 1974 investigation by the Atomic Energy Commission, Howland stated that he had in fact administered a plutonium injection in 1945 to Ebb Cade, the first subject of the human experiments.

In 1946, Howland was named Chief of Medical Research while the Manhattan Engineer District transitioned to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. He was discharged from the Army in 1947 with the rank of Major.  He remained a consultant to the AEC after the war, but returned to the University of Rochester where he established and directed the Atomic Energy Project Medical Division, which continued the work of the Manhattan Project after the war.

He died on October 12, 1978 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Joseph Howland's Timeline
1908 Dec 21st Born in Plain City, Ohio.
1928 Received Bachelors of Science from Denison University.
1929 Received Masters of Science in zoology from Ohio State University.
1931 Received Ph.D. from Ohio State University.
19311932 Biology instructor at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York.
19321933 Honorary Fellow at Ohio State University.
1938 Received his Medical Doctorate from the University of Rochester.
19441947 Major in the US Army
19441945 Medical Officer in charge of special problems at the University of Rochester as part of the Manhattan Project.
19451947 Assistant Chief of Medical Research for the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
19471960 Director of the Atomic Energy Project Medical Division at the University of Rochester.
1973 Moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina where he served as Director of the North Carolina Alcoholic Rehabilitation Center.
1978 Died in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

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