Called the “father of health physics,” Karl Z. Morgan was born in North Carolina and studied physics at the University of North Carolina and Duke, earning his Ph.D. in 1934. He chaired the Physics Department at Lenoir Rhyne College and studied cosmic radiation physics until 1943, when he joined the Metallurgical Laboratory of the University of Chicago. Transferring to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, he became Director of the Health Physics Division in 1944, leading studies on the detection of ionizing radiation and protection of people and the environment from its insidious hazards.
As Director of Health Physics at Oak Ridge for twenty-seven years, Morgan led teams that designed ionization chambers, film meters, and advanced Geiger counters for personnel monitoring and radiation surveys of buildings and environment. He became a founder and first president of the National Health Physics Society and the International Radiation Protection Association. He also edited Health Physics Journal and coauthored the first textbook on health physics.
Morgan became an international authority on studies of the safe limits for radionuclides in the human body. After retiring from Oak Ridge in 1972, he continued his work in the reduction of low-level radiation from radon, medical diagnostic procedures, and nuclear power as a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Karl Z. Morgan and James E. Turner, eds., Principles of Radiation Protection: A Textbook of Health Physics (1967); Leland Johnson and Daniel Schaffer, Oak Ridge National Laboratory: The First Fifty Years (1994)