Book announcement “Charles Pecher (1913 – 1941) et le Strontium Radioactif”

Published on: February 20, 2020

The new book “Charles Pecher (1913 – 1941) et le Strontium Radioactif” recounts the discoveries, the life and the tragic end of Charles Pecher, Belgian pioneer in nuclear medicine whose work has long been ignored. The book is now available as an e-book on different platforms. It is written in French, but a 38 page English short version is included.

In 1939, as a young doctor graduated from the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Ch. Pecher obtained a BAEF grant and went to work at UC Berkeley with Ernest Lawrence (Nobel Prize in Physics, 1939). He showed that strontium-89, having properties similar to calcium, is taken up in bones. He was the first

  • to perform a bone scan on a mouse (by autoradiography);
  • to carry out a series of dynamic scintigraphies;
  • to successfully complete a first clinical trial using Sr-89 to treat pain caused by bone tumors.

In 1941, Ch. Pecher was called up to arms by Belgium. He was ordered to join a provisional Belgian base in Canada. The Belgian government in London remained deaf to the requests of the highest scientific (E. Lawrence) and political (H. Hoover) American authorities, asking that he should be allowed to continue his research in Berkeley. As for the United States government, it prohibited Ch. Pecher from leaving the territory. Patriot, Charles Pecher would however decide to go beyond this prohibition and left for Canada. He was found dead a few days later, only a few weeks before the birth of his daughter Evelyne. Ch. Pecher; he was 27 years old.

At the end of 1942, the United States became involved in the Second World War and studies surrounding nuclear research leading to the atmic bomb, including those on Sr-89, became military secrets. The works of Ch. Pecher were classified at the highest level of secrecy. It would take several decades before the secrecy of its work was lifted.

The book is the homage of his daughter Evelyne to the man, the researcher and the father whom she never knew.