Issue Date: June 18, 2012
Michael J. Welch
Michael J. Welch, 72, a pioneer in radiopharmaceutical chemistry and professor of radiology, chemistry, developmental biology, and biomedical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, died on May 6 after a brief illness.
Born in Stoke-on-Trent, England, Welch earned a B.A. in 1961 and an M.A. in 1964, both in natural sciences, from Cambridge University. He received a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of London in 1965.
After working briefly as a research associate at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y., Welch joined the Washington University School of Medicine’s Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology in 1967 as an assistant professor of radiation chemistry. Two years later, he transferred to the university’s department of chemistry as an associate professor.
Moving between the institute and the department throughout his 45-year career at Washington University, he was named a full professor of radiation chemistry in 1974. He became director of the institute’s Division of Radiation Sciences in 1990 and became a professor of biomedical engineering in 2000.
Welch developed radioactive compounds that led to major advances in how physicians diagnose and treat cancer and other diseases. He was the author of 550 scientific papers and four books on the use of radioactive drugs to diagnose and treat disease.
Welch was a member of numerous organizations, including the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Radiation Research Society, and ACS, which he joined in 1966. He received many awards, including three from ACS: the St. Louis Award, the Glenn T. Seaborg Award for Nuclear Chemistry, and the Midwest Award.
The Radiopharmaceutical Sciences Council of the Society of Nuclear Medicine created the Michael J. Welch Award in 2008 to recognize individuals for their contributions to the field of radiopharmaceutical chemistry. In addition, the Welch family recently established the Dr. Michael J. Welch Foundation to promote research in cancer imaging.
Welch had a lifelong passion for sports—he was captain of his high school swim team, played water polo, and coached youth soccer in St. Louis from 1975 until 1983. A devoted soccer fan, he was a supporter of the Stoke City Potters and the Barclays Premier League.
He is survived by his son, Colin; daughter, Lesley Tomlin; and five grandchildren.
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