T. Ray Fewell (58C)
Award: 2012 Distinguished Achievement Award
Achievements: A highly respected physicist and an innovator in measuring radiation, T. Ray Fewell (58C) has developed methods, devices, and research that is widely used by scientists and the medical community today. It’s no overstatement to say that his work has helped protect the country from the dangers of unnecessary radiation. And, the next time you need a medical X-ray, you may want to say a little “thank you” to Ray for keeping you safe.
After graduating with honors with a Bachelor of Arts degree in physics and mathematics from Berry, Ray earned a Master of Science degree in physics from Emory University and went into government service. Much of his work for the U.S. Government involved developing techniques and devices for measuring the radiation from nuclear weapons and is mostly classified information.
As a physicist with Sandia Laboratories in Albuquerque, NM, from 1963-73, he developed specialized detectors for measuring the radiation from the underground testing of nuclear weapons at the Nevada Test Site. Acquiring this data is especially difficult because the intense radiation from nuclear testing lasts only a very brief time. The detectors set a prototype and were subsequently used by many scientists on nuclear weapon events and by weapon storage facilities to determine when certain items on nuclear weapons should be replaced.
“Many of the detectors he developed and their implementation in measuring the radiation from nuclear weapons have since become standards in the field, according to Walter Buford Jennings (58C), Retired Director of Technology with the U.S. Army Missile Command. “Ray’s work has contributed to our nation’s defense and to the health and well-being of its citizens.”
In his work as a U.S. Government Radiation Physicist for the Commissioned Corps of the United States Public Health Service from 1973 until his retirement in 2000, one of Ray’s main goals was to reduce the exposure to unnecessary radiation during medical examinations and to make radiological procedures and techniques safer and more effective. During his tenure in the Public Health Service, which uses U.S. Navy rankings, he advanced to the 06 level, comparable to a full Colonel in the Army or a Captain in the Navy.
Ray was the first investigator to experimentally measure and publish X-ray spectra that was accepted and used by the scientific community. He figuratively “wrote the book” on making X-ray spectra. One of his publications describes how his specially designed generators and instrumentation were used to measure the X-ray attenuation of the commonly used shielding materials. This data was later used to revise the handbook that is now being used to design the shielding facilities for diagnostic X-ray generators.
Explains professor Peter Henriksen (53H, 57C), Ph.D, “he and his colleagues not only advanced the analysis of X-ray generating equipment, their work led to the development of better and safer X-ray equipment which is in use in today’s medical facilities.”
Another example of Ray’s research was the employment of very complicated computer programs to develop “phantoms,” or replicas of the human chest and abdomen, that closely simulate a patient during X-ray procedures. These phantoms are still used by U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspectors to measure and compare patient radiation doses during routine diagnostic procedures at facilities around the country.
Along the way Ray worked as an adjunct professor in physics at George Washington University, served as a professional referee for the highly respected Medical Physics Journal from 1975-2000, published over forty professional articles and papers in journals and books, and received numerous awards from the U.S. Public Health Service, the U.S Food and Drug Service, and the U. S. Department of Health and Human Service.
Never one to neglect his alma mater, he and his wife Judy have found the time to attend every Berry reunion held by class of 1958, despite driving considerable distances, and he has also served as president of his local Berry Alumni Chapter. He further assisted in creation of two endowed student scholarships by the members of the college class of 1958 and supports the Dr. Lawrence McAlister Endowed Student Scholarship in honor of the widely-beloved former Berry physics professor.