A Life Full of Twinkling Atoms

During their 50 years together, Florence Lenahan and William Myers shared a passion for medicine and Ohio State.

Florence Lenahan and William Myers

Top: Dr. Charles Doan (left) collaborates with Dr. William Myers (right), who served as a faculty member at the Ohio State College of Medicine for more than 40 years. Bottom: Dr. Florence Lenahan was one of only three female medical doctors in her graduating class at Ohio State in 1939.

Florence Lenahan and William Myers met in 1937 during neuroanatomy class at Ohio State. They married in 1939, the year she earned her medical degree from Ohio State as one of only three female medical doctors in that graduating class. Lenahan spent her 35-year career as a physician in private practice in Columbus’s Linden area, making house calls to those living in rural areas and often accepting canned goods or even live chickens for payment. In 1944, she and her husband were the first doctors to use penicillin in Columbus. 

Myers, a Toledo native, won a competitive tuition scholarship to Ohio State, then pursued his studies for 39 consecutive quarters to earn his doctorate in physical chemistry in 1939 and his medical degree in 1941. He paid for expenses during these years by working as a teaching assistant in chemistry and as a part-time barber, giving shaves and haircuts to patients in the old Starling Loving Hospital. 

Self-described as a man who had a life full of “twinkling atoms” and “scintillating people,” Myers made major contributions to the field of nuclear medicine and was a pioneer in the application of radioisotopes for diagnostic and therapeutic medicine. In addition to his accomplishments as an internationally recognized researcher, he taught radiation biophysics in the Physiology Department at Ohio State for nearly 30 years to more than 1,000 resident physicians, medical students, and graduate students in the life sciences. 

When Myers passed away in 1988, Lenahan celebrated their 50 years together by making a planned gift to honor his contributions to nuclear medicine. Through a charitable remainder unitrust, she established the William G. Myers, M.D., Ph.D. Endowment Fund to support and maintain the Myers Medical Library and Conference Center and Myers Archive. This was one of the initial gifts to the Comprehensive Cancer Center – the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute. In addition, Lenahan targeted charitable bequests for discretionary use by the Department of Physics and the Department of Chemistry Center of Excellence Fund.

While he’s credited with molding modern nuclear medicine, Myers also played a key role as historian and friend to many of the other men and women who created the science. He helped to preserve their personalities and accomplishments through his writing and photography. His personal archives and book collection, the William G. Myers Collection, are now highlighted as part of the Medical Heritage Center, the only Central Ohio institution dedicated to researching and collecting the region’s medical history. And thanks to his wife’s generosity, others will continue to have access to these documents and the stories of medical pioneers and mentors who trained generations of physicians.

The Neil Legacy Society
The Ohio State University
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