Forefather of Nuclear Medicine, Henry N. Wagner, Jr., MD, Passes Away

September 27, 2012

Forefather of Nuclear Medicine, Henry N. Wagner, Jr., MD, Passes Away

Henry N. Wagner, Jr., MD, professor emeritus of medicine and radiology at Johns Hopkins University and an SNMMI past president, passed away on September 25, 2012. Considered one of the founders of the field of nuclear medicine as a scientific and medical specialty, the impact that Dr. Wagner had on our field is immeasurable.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that memorial donations be made in Dr. Wagner's name to The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine or The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
Office of Memorial Gifts
100 N. Charles Street, Suite 200
Baltimore, MD 21201

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
615 North Wolfe Street, #Wb 602
Baltimore, MD 21205

A tribute to the life and achievements of Dr. Wagner was hosted by Johns Hopkins University on Saturday, November 3, 2012.

To honor Dr. Wagner, SNMMI is also collecting thoughts, stories, videos and photos—both professional and personal—from our members. These items will be used to remember Dr. Wagner both on the SNMMI website and at the SNMMI Annual Meeting in June. To share your memories, please email Printed photos can be scanned or mailed to:

Attn: Dr. Wagner Memorial
1850 Samuel Morse Dr.
Reston, VA 20190

We gratefully appreciate all contributions.

Dr. Patricia S.R. Villemagne: I learned today in the JNM that Dr. Henry Wagner died a few weeks ago. I can't express how much sorrow I have, as a former Henry Wagner trainee, because we have lost a unique professional, scientist, educator and colleague, and most of all, an extraordinary human being. He was not only remarkable for his academic achievements, but also by his extraordinary vision to understand humanity and medicine in a way that very few people can do.

He has been a mentor, a friend and a father for all of us who were honoured to worked with him. His contributions to Nuclear Medicine were just the tip of the iceberg of all his energy, enthusiasm, generosity and wisdom. He left an enormous heritage to our profession, and most importantly, a way of thinking, a way of loving and understanding our specialty that goes far beyond his tremendous academic achievements.

We will miss you Dr Wagner, and I only hope we'll be able to keep passing the torch as you did to us.

Rest in peace.

Dr. Krishnaswamy Thirumurthi: We the members of Association of Nuclear Medicine physicians of India, deeply regret the sad demise of Prof. Henry Wagner Jr. Dr Henry Wagner.Jr. was a great friend of the nuclear medicine community in India.

He has visited many times and has participated in our nuclear medicine meetings. He was very educative and helped us to understand and practice nuclear medicine. He was very practical and had great vision. We all look up to him.

By his wisdom he has given us knowledge by which many of the sick persons in India are benefited. The ANMPI deeply mourns his loss and at the general body meeting of our association held on September 30, 2012, the members joined to pray for him and all the family members.

Please convey our heartfelt condolences to all SNMMI members and to his family.

May his soul rest in peace.  

Luigi G. Marzilli, MD: I first met Henry when when I was assistant professor of Chemistry at Johns Hopkins in the early 1970's. Henry was very early to recognize that more chemists needed to start investigating Tc chemistry. The Nuclear Medicine Division served to populate many departments, and faculty were often lured away. Had I been at the Med School instead of Homewood, I would have been the second most senior faculty member in the division, despite my young age. Only Henry would have had seniority over me. I moved to Emory in 1980 but continued my interest in chemistry related to nuclear medicine to this day.

The story I like to tell involving Henry occurred as we left the 2nd International Symposium on Technetium and Nuclear Medicine, Padova, Italy, September 1985.

Henry and Anne invited me to ride with them as they drove to Milan to catch a flight. We stopped for a nice Italian style lunch in a small village along the way. As we approached Milan, Henry declared he was going to find a hotel room close to the Linate Airport. I told Henry that he did not understand the Italians. No Italian would stay near the airport and therefore there would be no hotel rooms near it. Henry insisted. After circulating the airport a couple of times, he had to stop for gas. The attendant confirmed that there were no places to stay and pointed to the road to the center of Milan. It was getting dark by now. Henry declared he would stop at the first hotel he found on the road. Finally it was very dark and we found a hotel. Henry and Anne had an early flight so we had a nightcap and I wished them a good trip. That next morning when I awoke, out my window I saw the top of the famous Milan Duomo very close by. The closest hotel was right in the center of town!

Henry continued to show his enthusiasm for every aspect of the field. He will be missed.

Scott McKoin, CNMT, RT(N): I had the fortune to meet Dr. Wagner several times throughout the years at SNM national meeting. He always had time for a smile, a kind word, and an answer to questions from a fresh scared CNMT to a veteran technologist. His lectures were always informative, interesting, and entertaining. The world of nuclear medicine will be the less for passing. Google “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes” as it describes exactly how many of us feel with his passing.

RIP Dr. Wagner

Mathew Thakur, PhD, and Lalita Thakur: During my interactions and overseas encounters with Henry, I learned a lot from him, about nuclear medicine, about  humanity and about a friendship. I am grateful to his thoughtful advice on numerous occasions. I will miss him.

We all know a lot about Henry ,as we all fondly called him, but let me share with you three of his following statements that many of you may not have heard from him but I recall vividly:

  1. You will never find my picture with a glass of wine in my hand,
  2. In quarrels the truth gets lost, and
  3. The only knowledge you shall keep forever is the one you share with others

While I remember Henry, Let me and my wife Lalita offer our regards to the equally kind lady, Anne Wagner ,who had the joy of sharing Henry’s company for decades.

Liz, Bailey, President of the Federal Council of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Nuclear Medicine: The Federal Council of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Nuclear Medicine are deeply saddened by the passing of a pioneer and former President of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI), Dr. Henry Wagner, on September 26, 2012.

An international authority in nuclear  medicing, Dr. Wagner's passing is a great loss to the nuclear medicine community. Our heartfelt sympathy and most sincere condolences to his family and loved ones.

Enrique Estrada, MD, WFNMB President: On behalf of the World Federatin of Nuclear Medicine and Biology, I want to express our deep sorrow for this terrible news. Dr. Wagner was one of the founder members of the World Fed, and the most enthusiastic promotor of our activities.

Prof. G. P. Bandopadhyaya: We are extremely saddened by the sudden demise of our father figure Prof. Henry N.Jr. Wagner, M.D.who has devoted his life for enlightening the progress of nuclear medicine all around the world. His foresightedness is still very much remembered by nuclear physicians, nuclear physicists, radiopharmacist & scientists all around the globe. He was genius in summing up at the end of every annual SNM conferences. On behalf the Society of Nuclear Medicine India, as president elect, I am sending our condolences, and pray to God that his soul may rest in peace, and provide strength to his family to bear this great loss at this juncture.

Celso Dario Ramos, MD, Brazilian Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging: We are appalled, here in Brazil, since when we were informed about the death of Prof. Henry Wagner Jr., our great master and teacher of our teachers in the Brazilian nuclear medicine. Please receive our condolences and our gratitude for all that Prof. Wagner has done for our specialty. He will forever be with us in every day of our activity as nuclear medicine physicians.

William S. Maxfield, MD: I first met Henry when he and John McAfee were students in the Navy  Nuclear Medicine Course I supervised  at Bethesda Naval  Hospital in the late 1950’s before they started Nuclear Medicine  at Johns Hopkins. When I completed my active duty in the Navy I went to Johns Hopkiins to complete my radiology residency.   As Henry and John had been my students, Russ Morgan decided I did not have to rotate through Nuclear Medicine at JHH and instead sent me to AFIP.  We will all miss Henry as he was  an important leader in the field of Nuclear Medicine.  Again thank you for the notice of Henry’s death. 

Daniel N. Douglas, BS, CNMT: It certainly was my honor and pleasure to know Dr. Wagner in my many years living on the East Coast prior to my move to Arizona. Truly a class gentleman and an icon of nuclear medicine.

He was always so personable and always had time for us 'non-physicians'. We will never see the likes of him again. Please convey my sincerest condolences to his family.

Prof. Michael Maisey: I was Dr. Wagner's senior Fellow 1970-1972 and always held him in highest esteem as an academic and friend.

Donald Magouleff, MD, FACP: I am saddened to hear that Henry has passed. I was chief of Nuclear Medicine at North Shore University Hospital for nearly forty years and knew Henry well from Annual Meetings and particularly for a memorable lecture he gave at our hospital.

I proposed the purchase of a PET and cyclotron in 1986 and his lecture helped me persuade the hospital to commit the funds. It was a turning point for nuclear medicine and changed my career. He waved his finger at my chief, and in front of the entire department, said "shame on you if you don't back up Dr. Margouleff and purchase  a PET." Ultimately, Dr. Michael TerPogossian built a cyclotron for us and we bought a time of flight PET from Scanditronix.

Dr. Raymond Damadian visited me on the day of the lecture and he and Henry discussed the future of medical imaging in my office. An unforgettable discussion.

Henry was a wonderful physician and a valued friend.

Serge Goldman, MD: Thanks to a NIH research fellowship (Fogarty), I joined for two years the laboratory of Prof H.N. Wagner in 1987-1989. This time with H.N. Wagner has been crucial to my career, not because I lengthened my list of publications but essentially because Prof. Wagner enriched my way of thinking science and medicine. He still really inspires choices I make in my present research and clinical activity. My contacts with him during my time in Hopkins, and later each time I met him at the SNM meeting, have always been easy and pleasant. I hope the Society will be accept to transmit my condolences to his family.

Usha Joseph, MD: My deepest condolences to Dr. Wagner's family for their loss. He was truly a "giant" in the field of nuclear medicine and will be missed by the entire nuclear medicine community, both here and around the world. We have truly lost a pioneer, a leader, and one of the best advocates in nuclear medicine. He  was truly an unique gem, an irreplaceable shining star whose imprint and long shadow will remain in nuclear medicine for years to come.

Deepest condolences to his family and close friends at this sad time

Eli Botvinick, MD: Henry was a leader among leaders. Personally, he was a model to me as I began my career and relationship with the SNM. He was always interested in my work, encouraged it and was totally unselfish in his praise and beneficial criticism.

I will indeed miss him.

Daniel Chatzifotiadis, MD: I hope that he can see us from up there and help us to see what he could see. I met him at JHMI when I was research fellow there and I was admired of his clear and pioneer mind.He could get through all the lectures of the closing ceremony,I remember, like a surfer pointing out (very fast)the most important.

Daya Kishore Hazra, MD, PhD: We in India, and particularly at Agra where he visited us for the SNMI meet in 1991 are immensely saddened. He was a friend of nuclear medicine and of India! Do pass this to the family.

Muriel Buxton-Thomas, FRCP: I am saddened to hear of the passing of Dr. Henry Wagner - Father of nuclear medicine!

One of the highlights of my nuclear medicine career was to have our presentation on I-123 Beta-CIT imaging in patients with atypical tremor selected for his lecture at a time when PET dominated the his Highlights lecture at the SNM in the '90s.

However, an abiding memory was during a World Federation Meeting in Berlin when we were taken on a tour of the WEIMAR republic; the enthusiastic tour guide did not notice that it was getting dark and finally the cemetry (where Schiller and Goethe were interred) was closed and we were locked in! We were waiting for Dr. Wagner to interrupt the guide but he was far too polite and we had to find a way out by climbing over the wall. 

Dr Wagner inspired us and was always ready to talk and share ideas at the Johns Hopkins Nuclear Medicine courses.
He will be sadly missed by all his students around the world - our great teacher.

Brenda King, CNMT, FSNMMI-TS: Dr. Wagner was a true friend and supporter of the nuclear medicine technologists and their impact on the nuclear medicine community. He was always eager to support collaboration with the technologist section of the society and his guidance and leadership will truly be missed.
My condolences and sympathies go out to his wife and family at this sad time.

Jean-Mathieu Beauregard, MD, MSc, FRCPC: At the 2009 SNM Annual Meeting, I received one of the greatest honour I got so far. It was not a prize or an award. It was to be cited by Dr. Wagner in his acclaimed Highlights Lecture. I was a Fellow at that time. To have my abstract noticed among more than 2000 others was flattering, certainly. But what made this moment so special and unforgettable was to have my work acknowledged by Dr. Henry N. Wagner Jr., one of the most inspirational person in our discipline. As a young researcher, such a pat on the shoulder is tremendously touching and motivating. I feel ever more privileged that this happened to be the 33rd and last Highlights Lecture given by Dr. Wagner. I will remember this moment all my life.

Please see related links for photos. 

PDF: 8th WCNMB, Chile, 2002