Alan Douglas CONGER

Alan Douglas CONGER

Male 1917 - 1995

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  • Name  Alan Douglas CONGER  [1
    Born  23 Mar 1917  Muskegon, Muskegon Co., Michigan, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Gender  Male 
    Died  22 Dec 1995  Narberth, Montgomery, Pennsylvania, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    • Died at home
    Person ID  I50579  Munro
    Last Modified  31 May 2004 

    Family  Living 
    Children 
     1. Living
     2. Living
     3. David Robert Lafferty CONGER,   b. 31 Jul 1954, Oak Ridge, Anderson Co., Tennessee, USA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 17 Jul 1995, Stanford, , California, USA Find all individuals with events at this location
    >4. Living
    Last Modified  20 Jan 2009 
    Family ID  F17258  Group Sheet

  • Notes 
    • The following was written by close associates and friends of Alan Conger:

      Alan Conger, a pioneer in genetic effects of radiation, died 22 Dec 1995, at his home at 506 Old Gulph Road, Narbeth, Pennsylvania. He was 78 years old. Alan was born 23 Mar 1917, in Muskegon, Michigan. He attended Harvard as both an undergraduate and a graduate student, and received the Ph.D. degree in biology in 1947.

      While Alan was in graduate school, he was on a botanical field trip in Hawaii and witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor from the vantage point of the hills above the base. The next day he enlisted in the Army and, while based in North Carolina, he served in the weather service.

      After the war, Alan returned to Harvard to pursue his graduate work under the famous geneticist, Karl Sax, and became one of the well-known school of Sax-trained cytogeneticists. During his graduate studies, Alan had become interested in the genetic effects of radiation, and the subject of his dissertation was the sensitivity of different stages of meiosis to X-rays. He began his research career in this field at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 1947 and had a major role in the early bomb tests in the Pacific. He used the plant, Tradescantia, as his model system in three of these. For the test in Eniwetok Atoll of the Marshall Islands in 1951-1952, in addition to having placed samples on the ground at different distances from the epicenter, Alan had his Tradescantia inflorescences flown through radioactive clouds to detect radiation effects on the plant's well known large chromosomes. By correlating the numbers of induced chromosome aberrations with the dose to which the plants had been exposed, he was able to devise the first accurate biological dosimeter. This bomb test, designated "Operation Greenhouse" took its name from Alan's greenhouse where he cultivated his Tradescantia. This greenhouse was later demolished when a Navy plane crashed into it, killing his assistant. (Fortunately, Alan was not there at that time.) Subsequently, this procedure was applied successfully to the chromosomes in circulating lymphocytes of exposed humans.

      With his now firmly established interest in the biological effects of radiation, Alan took his wife, Priscilla, and his young family to England where he worked with L.H. Gray, then at Hammersmith Hospital in London. It was during that period that Gray set the tone of much of the radio-biological research that has dominated the field for over 40 years. Gray was convinced that oxygen played a pivotal role in determining the radiation sensitivity of cells in general and cancer cells in particular. Alan Conger's 1953 paper in the British Journal of Radiology [26, 638-648], co-authored with Gray, Michael Ebert, Shirley Hornsey and Oliver Scott, entitled "Concentration of Oxygen Dissolved in Tissues at the Time of Irradiation as a Factor in Radiotherapy," proved to be truly seminal, for, from data in that paper, one could deduce some of the unique quantitative relationships that govern the effectiveness of X-rays as they are used in radiation therapy.

      Shortly after his return to Oak Ridge, Alan was named Research Professor of Radiation Biology at the University of Florida at Gainesville, where he served from 1958 to 1965.

      Alan was well known for his puckish sense of humor, and he constantly kept his friends supplied with marvelous Conger stories. With his boyish charm, enthusiasm and good nature, he could with impunity be humorous where lesser people could not. One tangible artifact to have survived his Florida period is associated with Alan's service on the Radiation Study Section of the National Institutes of Health. He donated to that body an alligator coprolite that he had collected in the Florida swamps, which he had mounted on an impressive plaque for presentation annually to the member chosen by his colleagues to have propagated during his study section tenure the greatest quantity of the material of which the coprolite was composed.

      From Gainesville, he moved to Philadelphia, where he was professor and head of the radiation biology section at Temple University's School of Medicine from 1965 until his retirement in 1982. During that period he was elected Fourteenth President of the Radiation Research Society, for the year 1972. It was during his years in Philadelphia that he became especially interested in the use of multicell spheroid as a model system in radiobiology, as being used by John Yuhas, then at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. When Yuhas died suddenly, Alan joined that group to carry on this line of research, and he served the University of Pennsylvania from 1984 to 1986.

      Alan attended a meeting that was convened during the summer of 1973 in Snowmass, Colorado to assess the need for providing funding of further and more intensive investigation of very low-level radiation effects. In addition to reaching conclusions about the subject of the meeting, another significant event occurred. It was the productive discussions among four concerned and knowledgeable geneticists, Seymour Abrahamson, Michael Bender, Alan conger and Sheldon Wolff, which resulted in the formation of a concept that became known as the A B C W hypothesis (published as "Uniformity of Radiation-Induced Mutation Rates among different species," Nature 245,460, 1973). In this paper, evidence was produced to support the then novel and important conclusion that mutation rate induced by radiation is proportional to the total genome size (DNA content) for any species of any plant or animal.

      Alan had a passion for fly-fishing which culminated in fishing trips to Alaska where he enjoyed the truly rare pleasure of stream salmon fishing.

      Alan's research over the years was eclectic. He studied radiation effects on normal and neoplastic cells in vitro, on the bone marrow of mice and humans, on the taste buds of mice and humans, and on the somatic and germ cells of several plant species, especially Tradescantia. Most recently, he turned his attention to studying the effects of ultrasound on many of these systems. His research was usually generously supported by different granting agencies, and his prominence won him a Research Career Fellowship from the National Cancer Institute.

      During his active and productive career, he served as Associate Editor for the journals: Radiation Research, Radiation Botany, and Mutation Research, and as a consultant to the National Institutes of Health, the Oak Ridge and Brookhaven National Laboratories, and the Atomic Energy Commission (predecessor to the DOE).

      When Alan died, we lost an extremely bright and witty friend and colleague. He was an excellent scientist whose intelligence, warmth and love of life marked and influenced all who came into contact with him.

      Compiled and edited by Allen Alger, Genealogist, Clan Munro Association, USA [3]

  • Sources 
    1. [S318] Clan Munro files - Proctor, Joseph Rich, Jr., Joseph Rich Proctor, Jr., Descendants of William Munro - p. 11 (Reliability: 3).

    2. [S318] Clan Munro files - Proctor, Joseph Rich, Jr., Joseph Rich Proctor, Jr., Descendants of William Munro - p. 12 (Reliability: 3).

    3. [S318] Clan Munro files - Proctor, Joseph Rich, Jr., Joseph Rich Proctor, Jr., Descendants of William Munro - p. 12-13 (Reliability: 3).