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In Memoriam Ilya Aronovich Likhtarev (1935–2017)

  • Research Institute of Radiation Hygiene
  • Ukrainian Radiation Protection Institute
1 3
Radiat Environ Biophys
DOI 10.1007/s00411-017-0685-6
In Memoriam Ilya Aronovich Likhtarev (1935–2017)
MikhailI.Balonov1· VolodymyrBerkovskyy2· AndréBouville3·
LynnR.Anspaugh4· HerwigG.Paretzke5,6
Received: 20 February 2017 / Accepted: 22 February 2017
© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017
with honors from the All-Union Correspondence Polytech-
nic Institute in Moscow as an engineer-physicist.
In 1964, Dr. Likhtarev enrolled in graduate school at
the Leningrad Institute of Radiation Hygiene (IRH). The
leaders of his graduate studies included Academician Leo-
nid A. Ilyin, then the leading expert on radiation biophys-
ics and medicine in the Soviet Union. Dr. Likhtarev’s early
charge was experimental and theoretical work on the safety
of radioactive iodine. This included studies in animals and
in human volunteers, the development of a model of iodine
metabolism in the body, the application of protective agents
of stable iodine, and the radiobiological effect of radioio-
dine in the thyroid gland. Upon successful completion of
this work in 1968, the Institute of Biophysics, Moscow,
awarded him the Ph.D. degree.
From 1966 to 1986 Dr. Likhtarev led the Laboratory
of Radiation Biophysics within the IRH responsible for
studying radionuclide metabolism and dosimetry of inter-
nal human exposure. Under his leadership, studies were
conducted on the metabolism of tritium, iodine, strontium,
calcium, plutonium and other radionuclides in humans and
animals, and mathematical models and methods for calcu-
lation of internal doses were developed. Radiation safety
standards were developed and implemented for workers and
the public. Under his supervision about ten employees of
IRH and collaborating institutions received Ph.D. degrees,
including well-known experts, Mikhail Balonov and Irina
Zvonova. In 1976, Dr. Likhtarev was awarded the degree of
Doctor of Sciences with a specialty in “Biophysics”.
Immediately after the Chernobyl accident on 26 April
1986, Dr. Likhtarev returned to Ukraine, where he was
an expert advisor to the Ukrainian Minister of Health. He
supervised work under emergency conditions of numerous
radiation measurements, assessing current and future doses
Prof. Dr. Ilya A. Likhtarev, an outstanding Ukrainian bio-
physicist, an expert on radiation dosimetry and radiologi-
cal protection, and a scientist of world stature, passed away
suddenly and unexpectedly on 14 January 2017.
Dr. Likhtarev was born on 1 February 1935 in Priluki
in the Chernihiv Oblast of Ukraine. He spent his childhood
in Kyiv, which became his lifelong hometown. He started
his career in 1960 in the radiology group of Kyiv Regional
Sanitary-Epidemiological Station. In 1962, he graduated
* André Bouville
1 Institute ofRadiation Hygiene, 197101St.Petersburg, Russia
2 Ukrainian Radiation Protection Institute, 04050Kyiv,
3 U.S. National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, USA
4 University ofUtah, SaltLakeCity, USA
5 HMGU Institute ofRadiation Protection, Neuherberg,
6 TU Munich, Physics Department, Munich, Germany
Radiat Environ Biophys
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of the populations of the affected areas, and in the develop-
ment and implementation of protective measures.
In October 1986, Dr. Likhtarev created and headed the
Department of Dosimetry and Radiation Hygiene of the
newly established All-Union Scientific Center for Radiation
Medicine (now the National Research Center for Radia-
tion Medicine of Ukraine). The Department became the
base of the prolific Ukrainian scientific school of dosimetry
and radiological protection, which has been functioning for
over 30 years. As part of his legacy, Dr. Likhtarev trained
many young professionals in this field.
During the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident Dr.
Likhtarev and his team were faced with the task of large-
scale assessment of the radiation situation in more than
2200 towns that were home to more than 3.5million peo-
ple. This task was complicated by a variety of environmen-
tal and social conditions. Under his guidance numerous
measurements of cesium and strontium radionuclides in the
body of citizens of Ukraine were made, and a set of eco-
dosimetric models developed. Appropriate measures for
radiation protection of the population and rehabilitation of
the territories of Ukraine were carried out. They also devel-
oped and implemented a system of thyroid dose reconstruc-
tion of the entire population of Ukraine.
In the early 1990s, the incidence rate of thyroid can-
cer increased in children residing in the affected areas of
Ukraine. Initial analysis showed significant correlation
between the thyroid dose caused by ingestion of radioiodine
and the cancer incidence rate. The results were published
in 1995 in Nature and attracted the interest of research-
ers from different countries. In the mid-1990s, a cohort of
about 13,000 children (as of 1986) was formed for a long-
term Ukrainian-US epidemiological study of radiogenic
thyroid cancer. The dosimetry team led by Dr. Likhtarev
created an original stochastic model for dose assessment
that considers individual behavior of subjects and the envi-
ronmental characteristics in places of their residence. This
fruitful research continues.
In 1995, Dr. Likhtarev and his co-workers founded the
Radiation Protection Institute (RPI) of the Academy of
Technological Sciences of Ukraine. The RPI has developed
into the Ukrainian center of expertise for radiation protec-
tion and dosimetry: core regulations have been drafted and
support is provided to the national authorities and indus-
tries. During the last 15 years, the RPI has been providing
the occupational safety and internal dosimetry services for
the international project on the erection of the Cherno-
byl’s New Safe Confinement. Dr. Likhtarev’s team imple-
mented an unprecedented large-scale program of individual
monitoring of internal exposure, which is focused on the
intake of transuranic elements and covers more than 17,000
In recognition of Dr. Likhtarev’s scientific achievements
he was elected as a member of the USSR National Radia-
tion Protection Commission in 1978. Since 1992, he has
headed the Commission on Radiation Standards of Ukraine
that developed and implemented into practice basic
national regulatory documents. In 1993, he was elected to
Committee 2 (Dosimetry) of the International Commis-
sion of Radiation Protection (ICRP), where he successfully
worked until 2005. Since 2002, he was also a member of
the IAEA Radiation Standards Committee (RASSC).
Dr. Likhtarev carried out extensive international coop-
eration with specialists from the USA, Europe and Japan
since the Soviet times and afterwards. Dr. Likhtarev and
his co-workers were very valuable partners in many multi-
national research contracts on a range of radiation protec-
tion topics following the Chernobyl reactor accident. With
the help of his laboratory, substantial scientific progress
could be achieved. His friendly and cooperative human
nature greatly facilitated such cooperation across the formi-
dable political borders of that time. He participated in inter-
national congresses and conferences, where his papers and
participation in discussions invariably aroused keen inter-
est of the audience. Also, he will always be remembered,
at a personal level, by those many international colleagues
who had the pleasure to work with him on the solution of
common problems related to radiation protection of work-
ers and the public.
The scientific heritage of Dr. Likhtarev includes more
than 600 scientific works; among them are articles in pres-
tigious journals, monographs, and documents of the ICRP,
UNSCEAR, WHO and IAEA. Dr. Likhtarev is included in
the list of the 50 most cited scientists of Ukraine. Under
his guidance, 25 students have earned Ph.D.s and 10 have
earned Doctor of Science degrees.
Dr. Likhtarev was a specialist of highest qualification
and possessed an authority recognized among colleagues
and employees in Ukraine and Russia, and beyond. He was
the bearer of encyclopedic knowledge in the field of radiol-
ogy and related sciences. He was also known for his sense
of humor, and took delight in inviting visiting scientists to
“drink firewater with the natives.
Ilya Likhtarev is survived by his wife, Lіonella Kovgan,
sons Mikhail and Dmitry, step daughter Tamila Kovgan,
and six grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his par-
ents and his first wife Tamara Likhtareva.
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