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John Cunningham

One of Canada's most distinguished medical physicists, Dr. John Cunningham spent most of his extraordinary career at the Ontario Cancer Institute at the Princess Margaret.

Dr. Cunningham, better known as "Jack," passed away on Jan. 4, the day before his 93rd birthday.

After serving in the Canadian Technical Training Corps just prior to the end of the Second World War, he studied Engineering Physics at the University of Saskatchewan and was awarded a PhD in Physics at the University of Toronto in 1955.

In 1958, Dr. Cunningham joined the Physics Division of the Ontario Cancer Institute at the Princess Margaret Hospital, where he remained Chief of Clinical Physics and Professor at the University of Toronto until 1989.

A great mentor, colleague and friend, Dr. Cunningham was an exceptional person, orator, innovator and pioneer of medical physics with a special appreciation of the importance of global cooperation and development. He was recognized internationally with awards from many professional organizations and acknowledged as a leader establishing the scientific groundwork of radiation cancer treatment.

Along with Dr. Harold Johns, he authored The Physics of Radiology, which remains the authoritative text in the field.

In 2005, Dr. Cunningham was installed as an Officer of the Order of Canada, recognizing his life-long contributions to the betterment of Canadians as "one of Canada's most distinguished medical physicists."

Dr. Cunningham, along with Dr. Gordon Whitmore, a fellow native of Saskatchewan, received the 2017 UHN Global Impact Award for their landmark work as medical physicists. A group of nominators cited the pair for "their pioneering work in medical physics and their vision in shaping the field of medical physics in Canada and around the world."

Dr. Cunningham was described by one nominator for the UHN award as "one of Canada's most distinguished medical physicists." A publisher of more than 70 peer-reviewed papers, he advanced innovative concepts in radiation dosimetry and was a pioneer in developing the computerized dose calculations used to treat cancer patients around the world.

A family man, he leaves Sheila, his wife of 68 years, their five children as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They remember his wonderful smile and exceptional sense of humour, epitomized by the devilish delight he took playing the part of Jimmy the (naughty) Clown at the Princess Margaret Hospital childrens' Christmas parties for many years. 


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