Review Article

Archives of Toxicology

, Volume 85, Issue 12, pp 1495-1498

First online:

Muller’s Nobel lecture on dose–response for ionizing radiation: ideology or science?

  • Edward J. CalabreseAffiliated withEnvironmental Health Sciences, Department of Public Health, School of Public Health and Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts Email author 

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In his Nobel Prize Lecture of December 12, 1946, Hermann J. Muller argued that the dose–response for radiation-induced germ cell mutations was linear and that there was “no escape from the conclusion that there is no threshold”. However, assessment of correspondence between Muller and Curt Stern 1 month prior to his Nobel Prize Lecture reveals that Muller knew the results and implications of a recently completed study at the University of Rochester under the direction of Stern, which directly contradicted his Nobel Prize Lecture. This finding is of historical importance since Muller’s Nobel Lecture gained considerable international attention and is a turning point in the acceptance of the linearity model in risk assessment for germ cell mutations and carcinogens.


Linearity Threshold Hermann J. Muller Nobel Prize Risk assessment X-rays Ionizing radiation