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NCI Retiree Roger Sherman Powell Is Mourned

By James Alexander

Roger Sherman Powell personified the imaging program at the National Cancer Institute for 14 years. His distinguished career in the field spanned more than five decades, from World War II and radar in the 1940's to today's ultramodern imaging techniques. Powell, who retired in 1998 as program director of the Diagnostic Imaging Research Branch, died on July 30 at age 83. Colleagues are remembering him for his campuswide contributions to a technology that has helped propel advances in biomedical research.

Roger Sherman Powell
"He was a great brain, a great heart, a marvelous combination between engineer and poet," said former NCI colleague Manuel Torres-Anjel, recalling Powell's love for writing poetry. "Roger was a great human being."

Before coming to NIH and NCI, Powell worked for General Electric Research Laboratory in Niskayuna, N.Y., as liaison scientific officer. He was also a research assistant at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Powell worked at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute as a project physicist for the artificial heart project, with special emphasis on imaging aspects of the program, pre-, during and post-surgery.

He was one of a handful of experts who did most of NIH's imaging work throughout the campus over the years. He worked for the federal government for 30 years.

The period that Powell worked at NCI was a time of great evolution in the use of enabling technologies for biomedical research. He witnessed imaging rise from a section and branch at the Radiation Research Program, to the Diagnostic Imaging Program, the Biomedical Imaging Program and now the Cancer Imaging Program. He also followed with great interest the recent creation of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at NIH.

A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, Powell pursued a double major in physics and engineering. He earned an M.S. in physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. After college, he worked at MIT during World War II. He spent about 18 months on mainland China while a radar system that he worked on was installed at several strategic locations within the country.

A native of Camp Hill, Pa., Powell had been a resident of Bethesda and more recently Gaithersburg. Survivors include his wife, Bea Crosby Powell, who also became his nurse, and a host of other relatives and friends.

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