Harvey Picker dies, leaving strong imaging legacy

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Harvey Picker, who died March 22 at his home in Camden, N.J., at the age of 92, was well-known in scientific circles throughout the United States and globally as a pioneer in the field of x-ray, MRI and CT, as well as being widely recognized as an educator, businessman and philanthropist.

With degrees from Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., and the Harvard Business School in Boston, and after further studies at Oxford University in England, he joined Picker X-ray, which was founded by his father in 1915.

The family sold and serviced x-ray equipment and film, as well as developed field x-ray equipment that was parachuted to American troops during World War II. After the war ended, the Pickers sent a check for $3 million to the U.S. treasurer, explaining that they did not want to profit from the war effort.

Harvey Picker ran the company for 25 years, leading it into new fields, such as cobalt therapy for cancer, nuclear imaging diagnostics and the use of ultrasound for ocean exploration, which was later adapted for medical imaging.

He returned to Colgate in 1971 as an adjunct faculty member, and one year later, was named dean of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in New York City.

He and his late wife, Jean, gave $5 million to her alma mater, Smith College in Northamptom, Mass., a liberal arts school for women, to start a new engineering department. She was a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Picker and his wife later founded the Picker Institute, dedicated to patient-centered care, which designed patient survey forms used in many hospitals to improve the delivery of medical services.