THEY WERE GIANTS
OTHA LINTON, MSJ
Eddie Ernst “You can call me Eddie,” said the senior radiologist. “Yessir, Dr Ernst,” I responded. With all respect, he was more than twice as old as me, age 77 to my age 30. I was in my second year working for the ACR. It was 1962, and Edwin C. Ernst Sr, of St Louis, Missouri, a veteran leader in radiology for about 50 years, was planning how to expand the Gas Tube Gang to preserve the history of radiology. Most of the original radiologists had died, and he felt that the ACR should take action to collect and preserve historical memoirs, ancient x-ray equipment, and the records of practice in hospitals, private offices, medical schools, and missionary expeditions. For some years, with Ben Orndoff of Chicago, Illinois, and Walter Wasson of Denver, Colorado, Dr Ernst had organized and attended meetings of their veteran chums at a dinner at the RSNA. But the crowd was fading, and Dr Ernst told the ACR Board of Chancellors that they would have to take over history efforts. His request was accepted. Eddie Ernst was born in St Louis in 1885. He graduated from Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He returned to St Louis, enrolling in medicine first at St Louis University, then at Washington University. Beginning in 1912, he took an internship in the Mullanphy Hospital and began studying radiology with Russell Carman, then the x-ray chief at Washington University. He spent brief visits in New York City with Lewis G. Cole
and James Ewing, studying cancer detection. With other radiologists in the Midwest, Dr Ernst was an organizer of the RSNA in 1915. He served in World War I in France in a medical unit from St Louis. A few years later, when the ACR was organized, he was a founder and an early member of its board. In 1925, Dr Ernst attended the first international radiology convention in London. He was impressed by discussions of the need to define radiology units and measurements. He paid a visit to the US Secretary of Commerce, and later President Herbert Hoover to urge that the federal government get involved in the science of radiology. He returned to Europe in 1928 to the second congress in Stockholm, Sweden, together with Lauriston Taylor, a physicist from the National Bureau of Standards, and applauded his assignment to x-ray science as a member of the International Commission on Radiation Units, the International Commission on Radiological Protection, and, in 1929, creation of the US National Council of Radiological Protection. In 1934, Dr Ernst was 1 of 3 ACR delegates sent to Washington, DC, to participate in the official incorporation of the ABR. As a director, he participated in oral examinations of candidates and supported ABR’s investigation of physics as part of the physician examinations and the possible accreditation of physicists. He was an active member of the ACR and the RSNA. During this
time, his sons graduated from medical schools and followed their father into the family radiology group. Dr Ernst, was president of the RSNA in 1927 and received its Gold Medal in 1936. He continued to be active in the ACR, serving on various commissions, on the board, and as president in 1947. In 1967, he received an ACR Gold Medal. In Dr Ernst’s active decades, it was routine for most radiologists to practice both x-ray diagnosis and radium treatment of cancers. In 1949, he and his sons developed the Ernst applicator, a device for using radium inserted in the cervix. He consistently attended meetings of the RSNA, ACR, and American Radium Society. Along with the Gas Tube Gang sessions, Dr Ernst began collecting bits of radiology history and corresponding with other senior radiologists. After he and Drs Orndoff and Wasson worked with the ACR to create a strong historical effort, he persuaded the Mallinckrodt Chemical Company of St Louis to offer the ACR a donation for the creation of a history book about radiology. He helped choose the science writers Ruth and Edward Brecher to write the book, published by Williams and Wilkins in 1969. By the time of Dr Ernst’s death in 1969, some of his grandsons had also entered radiology, and the Ernst family remained a solid part of the specialty in St Louis. Throughout all of those years, he told me to call him Eddie, and I always addressed him as Dr Ernst.
Otha Linton, MSJ, 11128 Hurdle Hill Dr, Potomac, MD 20854.
© 2012 American College of Radiology 0091-2182/12/$36.00 ● DOI 10.1016/j.jacr.2011.11.008