Dr. Herbert L. Abrams, Who Worked Against Nuclear War, Dies at 95
(Original article: William Grimes, NYTimes, Jan. 28, 2016)
Dr. Herbert L. Abrams, a radiologist at Stanford and Harvard Universities and a founder of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 for its work in publicizing the health consequences of atomic warfare, died on Jan. 20 at his home in Palo Alto, Calif. He was 95.
The death was confirmed by his son, John.
In the late 1970s, Dr. Abrams became interested in the health implications of nuclear policy. “It began to dawn on me that these weapons of annihilation were being considered for use in the settlement of disputes between nations when I had honestly not thought that that was ever in the cards,” he told The Los Angeles Times in 1989.
With a group of American and Soviet doctors, he helped create International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, with the goal of publicizing the health risks of a nuclear exchange and countering theories that physicians might be able to save enough people to continue civilized life. He later called nuclear weapons and nuclear war “the central health issue of the 20th century.”
Dr. Abrams served as founding vice president of the group, which was awarded the Unesco Prize for Peace Education in 1984 and the Nobel Peace Prize a year later. In announcing the award, the Nobel Committee said the group had performed an important service “by spreading authoritative information and by creating an awareness of the catastrophic consequences of atomic warfare.”
Herbert Leroy Abrams was born on Aug. 16, 1920, in Brooklyn and grew up in Sheepshead Bay. His father, Morris, was an immigrant from Russia and ran a successful company that produced machinery and factory tools. His mother, the former Freda Sugarman, was also an immigrant from Russia.
After graduating from James Madison High School, he received a bachelor’s degree from Cornell in 1941. He earned a medical degree from Long Island Medical College (now the SUNY Downstate Medical Center) and completed his residency in internal medicine at Long Island College Hospital and Montefiore Hospital.
He completed a residency in radiology at Stanford University’s school of medicine in 1952 and two years later joined the faculty, eventually becoming the school’s director of diagnostic radiology.
An expert on cardiovascular radiology, Dr. Abrams published nearly 200 papers and wrote seven books on cardiovascular disease and health policy. His book “Angiography” (1961), the first comprehensive volume on the subject, is now, under the editorship of Stanley Baum, in its fourth edition under the title “Abrams’ Angiography: Vascular and Interventional Radiology.”
For many years Dr. Abrams was editor in chief of the journal Postgraduate Radiology. He was the founding editor in chief of the journal Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiology. In 1967 he accepted a position as a professor and chairman of radiology at Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Abrams returned to Stanford as a professor of radiology in 1985 but spent most of his time doing research at the university’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. He was also a senior fellow at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and a director for many years of Physicians for Social Responsibility.
In addition to his son, Dr. Abrams, who also lived on Martha’s Vineyard, is survived by his wife, the former Marilyn Spitz; a daughter, Nancy Abrams; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. His older brother,Mason Adams, played Charlie Hume, the managing editor of the newspaper that was the setting of the television series “Lou Grant,” starring Ed Asner. Mr. Adams died in 2005.
In the 1990s, Dr. Abrams began to focus on medical issues involving the American presidency and executive decision-making. That interest led him to write “The President Has Been Shot: Disability, Confusion and the 25th Amendment” (1992).