Henry Martland and the Radium Dial Painters
Harrison S. Martland's Research Proved that Ra-226 Caused Death of the Radium Dial Painters
Harrison S. Martland, MD
Chief Medical Examiner
Harrison S. Martland Medical Center, Newark, NJ. 65 Bergen Street, Newark, NJ. Now renovated as the flagship administrative building for the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey.
Harrison Stanford Martland, the son of Dr. William Henry and Ida (Carlyle) Martland, was born in Newark on September 10, 1883. Harrison Martland received a BS degree from Western Maryland College in 1901. After receiving his MD degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University in 1905, he served an 18-month internship at the municipal New York City Hospital on Welfare Island. He then spent a period of two years in Pathology and Bacteriology at the Russell Sage Laboratory.
Dr. Martland accepted the appointment of the first full-time paid pathologist at the Newark City Hospital in January 1909. On November 16, 1910 he married Myra C. Ferdon and they purchased a house at 180 Clinton Avenue, Newark, which was to be their home until his death in 1954. When World War I broke out, Dr. Martland joined the Bellevue Hospital Unit and as a lieutenant colonel he took charge of a hospital in Vichy, France. He later was awarded a Citation for Exceptionally Meritorious and Conspicuous Service by General John Pershing.
In June 1925 Dr. Martland was chosen to fill the post of Essex County Physician. Immediately, he saw the danger of divided authority in the system that allowed a coroner's jury of laymen to decide causes of sudden death therefore, he set out to establish the medical examiner system in Essex County. He won his fight in the State Legislature and the county government in March 1927, and was appointed Chief Medical Examiner by the Essex County Board of Freeholders. In April 1933, Dr. Martland was named Professor of Forensic Medicine at New York University, a post he held for fifteen years.
Dr. Martland made important contributions in the fields of pathology and forensic medicine. The work that attracted the most attention was his research begun in 1924, on the effects of radioactive material on the human body. Dr. Martland determined that minute traces of radioactivity contained in luminous paint had caused the deaths of watch dial painters employed at the US Radium Corporation in Orange, NJ. The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) credits Dr. Martland's work with having made it possible for atomic development to proceed with comparative safety. At the request of the AEC, Dr. Martland prepared a permanent exhibit on radioactive dangers and precautions which is on display in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
H. S. Martland, Microscopic changes of certain anemias due to radioactivity. Arch. Pathol. Lab. Med. 2, 465-472 (1926).
H. S. Martland, The occurence of malignancy in radioactive persons. Am. J. Cancer 15, 2435-2516 (1931).
Dr. Martland received numerous honors and awards. Nobel Prize winners came to Newark three times to salute him at annual Harrison S. Martland Lectures sponsored by the Essex County Anatomical and Pathological Society. The New York Pathological Association named him its first out-of-state president in 1928. He was President of the Essex County Medical Society in 1920 and of the Academy of Medicine of Northern New Jersey in 1922. In 1943, the Academy of Medicine gave Dr. Martland the Edward J. Ill Award as the outstanding physician and citizen of the county. The Newark City Commission paid tribute to the eminent pathologist when the new city hospital was dedicated the Harrison S. Martland Medical Center on January 24, 1954.
After forty-five years as Newark City Hospital Pathologist and twenty-five years as Essex County Medical Examiner, Dr. Martland retired in November 1953. He died on May 1, 1954 at the age of 71.
Martland Archives at the UMDNJ Library