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In Memoriam: Biophysics pioneer William Paul

In 2013, William Paul (front, second from right) with son Marden Paul (far left) and daughter Lissa Paul (far right) participated in the Convocation of Lissa' son Jeremy

A scientist and University of Toronto Professor Emeritus who helped establish the field of nuclear medicine in Canada, has died. He was 96.

William Paul helped set up and run the first medical isotopes lab in Toronto. He trained generations of medical researchers in the safe use of radioactive materials for medical diagnoses, as a professor in Pathological Chemistry and Clinical Biochemistry and as a founding member of the University’s Radiation Protection Authority.

Paul also did groundbreaking research on the use of radioactive iodine for thyroid disorders.

“Dr. Paul was a founder of the field of biophysics, and he played a key role in the development of nuclear medicine in Toronto. He also served as an administrative leader at the University. On behalf of the Faculty, I would like to offer my deepest condolences to Dr. Paul’s family,” said Catharine Whiteside, dean of the Faculty of Medicine.

Paul was one of the few graduates in biology and physics at U of T in the 1940s. He earned a PhD in pharmacology in 1948 and did a postdoctoral fellowship at Cambridge University the following year. He returned to U of T as a lecturer in pharmacology and in 1953 joined the Department of Pathological Chemistry, where he taught for three decades.

“As one of the only people in Canada with a specialized knowledge of nuclear physics as it might apply to medical diagnosis, he taught us everything we knew about radioactive materials,” said Andrew Baines, a molecular biochemist and U of T Professor Emeritus who studied under Paul in the 1950s. “And he helped usher in a new approach to safety in a field where, historically, the handling of radiation had been sloppy.”

Paul retired in 1983 but continued to teach for nine more years. In 2007, he wrote a paper on climate change for U of T’s Senior Scholars Symposium. He also took up boat building in his late 80’s, and built a cedar canoe and a kayak. In 2013, he participated in the convocation of his grandson. Three generations of Pauls have graduated from U of T.

“He was a thoughtful, gentle, kind man, with a strong intelligence and an inquiring mind,” said Baines. “Above all, he was a mensch.”