Francis Committee (report submitted in November 1955)

“In the early 1950s, serious questions were raised concerning the feasibility of continuing the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission’s research program, despite a consensus in the scientific community that decades of study would be required to answer the unresolved questions regarding the late effects of radiation on human beings.

“Addressing this need, R. Keith Cannan, chairman of the Division of Medical Sciences, National Research Council, convened in October 1955 a meeting of National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council (NAS-NRC) consultants to review the research design of ABCC. This meeting led to the recommendation that a Unified Study Program based on a fixed population be created. An Ad Hoc Committee for Reappraisal of the ABCC Program was thus created, headed by Thomas Francis Jr, professor of epidemiology, University of Michigan. The Francis Committee’s recommendations became the blueprint of the future research program at ABCC-RERF.” (From K. Joji, “Better US-Japan understanding cultivated,” RERF Update 3[3]:8, 1991.)

“In the earliest days of ABCC, although the work of H.J. Muller and others had shown the importance of genetic studies and it was clear that one of the mutagenic effects of radiation might be an increase in congenital malformations, little was known about possible somatic effects. There had been reports of shortened life span following radiation exposures, and this led to the hypothesis, since discarded, of accelerated aging. Clinical studies at ABCC were begun without clear objectives. In consequence, various researchers developed their own agendas. With a few exceptions, physicians from the US came for 2-year tours, each with his or her own idea about what might be useful to do. Plans for observations changed, and the idea of establishing a specific cohort had not taken root.

“The Francis Committee’s report (1955) had emphasized the critical importance of continuity. An important element of such a plan was the establishment of fixed, well-defined groups of exposed and non-exposed persons that would permit determination of disease rates and tracking of changes over time. ABCC Director [George] Darling took the Francis recommendations seriously and was adamant that the program not be changed to suit the ideas of each new chief of medicine or pathology.” (From S. Jablon, “Darling directorship spanned 15 years of change,” RERF Update 3[1]:5-7, 1991.)

Subsequent to several meetings in the United States and in Hiroshima, the memorandum (referred to as the “Francis Report”) was submitted by the committee chairman to Dr. Cannan on 6 November 1955 and the recommendations were approved in principle by an ad hoc conference called by NAS-NRC on 27 November 1955.

Members of the Francis Committee:

Thomas Francis Jr (Chairman),
Professor of Epidemiology, University of Michigan
Seymour Jablon,
Follow-up Agency, NAS-NRC
Felix E. Moore,
National Heart Institute, National Institute of Health

To see an overview of the Francis Report, proceed to the following: ABCC Technical Report 33-59, Report of the Ad Hoc Committee for Appraisal of the ABCC Program, 1955.