Saul Hertz, M.D. 1905 - 1950
Saul Hertz, M.D.
Dr. Saul Hertz discovered radioactive iodine as a tracer/diagnostic tool, as the cure for Graves disease, and its use in the treatment of thyroid cancer.
Dr. Hertz was born to Orthodox Jewish immigrant parents in Cleveland, Ohio on April 20, 1905. He received his A.B. from the University of Michigan in 1925 with Phi Beta Kappa honors. After graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1929 he did his internship and residency at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Cleveland. He then joined the Thyroid Clinic at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital serving as Chief of the Thyroid Unit from 1931 - 1943.
On November 12, 1936 Dr. Karl Compton, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, spoke at a luncheon lecture. His topic was What Physics can do for Biology and Medicine. After the presentation Dr. Hertz asked Dr. Compton, "Could iodine be made artificially radioactive?" Dr. Compton responded in writing on December 15, 1936 that in fact "iodine can be made artificially radioactive." A collaboration between Dr. Hertz (MGH) and Dr. Arthur Roberts, a physicist of MIT, was established. Animal studies followed.
In January of 1941, Dr. Hertz was the first to administer radioactive iodine at the Massachusetts General Hospital that lead to a series of twenty-nine patients with hyperthyroidism. This proved to be a success. Dr. Hertz's use of radioactive iodine as a tracer in the diagnostic process, as a treatment for Graves' disease and in the treatment of cancer of the thyroid remain the preferred practices.