John B. Little

The Harvard Chan School community mourns the loss of Dr. John B. Little, MD, the James Stevens Simmons Professor of Radiobiology, Emeritus in the Department of Molecular Metabolism, who passed away at the age of 90 in his Brookline home on May 24, 2020.

Dr. Little grew up in Brookline, MA.  After attending college and medical school, he started his medical career as an intern on the Osler Service at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Immediately thereafter, he served two years as a U.S. Army Captain in the Medical Corps in Texas and Bussac, France, where he began his training as a radiologist. He completed his formal radiology training at Massachusetts General Hospital. It was during a postdoctoral fellowship the Harvard Chan School that he found his passion and began pioneering studies on the mutagenic and carcinogenic effects of ionizing radiation on cells and tissues directly targeted by radiation. He would continue his career at the School becoming the James Stevens Simmons Professor of Radiobiology and founding the Radiation Biology Program.

Over the course of his career at the School, Dr. Little held a variety of  leadership positions including Director of the Kresge Center for Environmental Health. He was a dedicated member of the School community and groundbreaking scientist generating over 500 scientific publications including several seminal observations that advanced the field of radiobiology. He also led the Radiation Biology Training Grant which began in 1975. He mentored over 100 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and continued to be engaged in science until his very last days on this earth. One of his most favorite events was the annual JBL Symposium honoring his devotion to science, which he opened every year with trademark jokes and closed with a wonderful dinner party.

The eponymous John B. Little Center at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health stands as an enduring legacy marking Dr. Little’s tremendous contributions. He will forever be remembered as an outstanding scientist, colleague, and mentor, and beyond all, an absolutely wonderful and kind human being.  Please join us in offering our condolences to Dr. Little’s family.