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John Gofman : biography

September 21, 1918 - August 15, 2007

John William Gofman (September 21, 1918 – August 15, 2007) was an American scientist and advocate. He was Professor Emeritus of Molecular and Cell Biology at University of California at Berkeley. Some of his early work was on the Manhattan Project, and he shares patents on the fissionability of uranium-233 as well as on early processes for separating plutonium from fission products. Dr. Gofman later worked in medicine and led the team that discovered and characterized lipoproteins in the causation of heart disease. In 1963, he established the Biomedical Research Division for the Livermore National Laboratory, where he was on the cutting edge of research into the connection between chromosomal abnormalities and cancer.

Later in life, he took on a role as an advocate warning of dangers involved with nuclear power. From 1971 onward, he was the Chairman of the Committee for Nuclear Responsibility. He also described himself a libertarian and spoke at several events sponsored by the Students for a Libertarian Society in 1979 and 1980. He was awarded the Right Livelihood Award for his work on the effects of the Chernobyl disaster's low-level radiation exposure on the population. John Gofman died of heart failure on August 15, 2007 in his home in San Francisco.

Early work

John Gofman was born in Cleveland, Ohio to Russian Jewish parents . He graduated from Oberlin College with a bachelor's in 1939, and received a doctorate in nuclear and physical chemistry from Berkeley in 1943. In his work as a graduate student, he studied nuclear isotopes and helped to describe several discoveries, including protactinium-232, uranium-232, protactinium-233, and uranium-233. He also helped to work out the fissionability of uranium-233. He later became the group co-leader of the Plutonium Project, an offshoot of the Manhattan Project. New York Times, August 26, 2007.

Dr. Gofman earned his medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco, in 1946. After that, he and his collaborators investigated the body’s lipoproteins, which contain both proteins and fats, and their circulation within the bloodstream. The researchers described low-density and high-density lipoproteins and their roles in metabolic disorders and coronary disease. This work continued throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Opposition to nuclear power

Gofman retired as a teaching professor in 1973 and became a professor emeritus of molecular and cell biology.

Gofman testified on the behalf of Samuel Lovejoy at Lovejoy's 1974 trial. Lovejoy was charged with malicious destruction of property for toppling a weather tower in Montague, Massachusetts, owned by Northeast Utilities. Lovejoy's actions were an act of protest against a proposed nuclear power plant to be built on Montague Plains. Lovejoy was inspired by Gofman's book, Poisoned Power.

After the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, Gofman used his model of the effects of low-level radiation to predict 333 deaths from the accident; to date no deaths have been officially attributed to the accident. After the April 26, 1986 Chernobyl disaster, he predicted one million malignancies from the fallout, half of which would be fatal. According to the IAEA, the official death toll to date is 56, of which nine were children who died of thyroid cancer (although many animals died from that cause), as well as 4,000 eventual extra cancer deaths. Greenpeace and others disputes the U.N. fatality number. Amory Lovins, in a Huffington Post op-ed, claims support for his skeptical views on such estimates from a book translated from Russian and reprinted by the New York Academy of Sciences, which he says cited

5,000 mainly Slavic-language scientific papers the IAEA overlooked. It found deaths approaching a million through 2004, nearly 170,000 of them in North America. The total toll now exceeds a million, plus a half-trillion dollars' economic damage.
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