Elizabeth Fleishman-Aschheim: Early, Heroic Jewish Radiologist of San Francisco

Elizabeth Fleishman-Asehheim

Elizabeth Fleishman-Anchheim WS 14/1982

Elizabeth Fleishman-Anchheim
WS 14/1982

Value Codes I-E-L-P

Though virtually unknown in the annals of American Jewish history, Elizabeth Fleishman-Asehheim was recognized as a martyr to the new science of Radiology.

She had been born in  El Dorado County in the Gold County of California, in 1859.




In 1894, her brother-in-law’s enthusiasm for the newly discovered X-rays induced Elizabeth to enter the field of Radiology.

Her brother-in-law was Michael J.H. Woolf, M.D., a San Francisco physician.

Elizabeth Fleishman-Aschheim began experimenting with X-rays in R. Woolf ‘s office.

In 1896, she opened the first X-ray laboratory in Cali­fornia.

Elizabeth quickly became noted as one of the “most expert radiogaphers in the United States.”

When the wounded soldiers who had been in battle in the Phil­ippine Islands during the Spanish-American War were brought to San Francisco, it was Elizabeth Fleishman-Aschheim who took the X-rays which located the bul­lets and shell-splinters imbedded in their bodies so that the sur­geons could remove them.

The San Francisco Chronicle observed that “she be­came indispensable to the Army physicians.”

The Army Surgeon-General praised her work highly.

She did all the X-ray work done for the Army hospitals on the West Coast.


It was said that Mrs. Fleishman-Aschheim was “so intent in the performance of her work that she became careless of her own health.”

In 1905, X-ray burns of her right arm necessitated its amputation,

She never fully recovered her health after that, and died seven months later at the age of 46.


The San Francisco Examiner headlined her passing on the front page by: “Woman Sacrifices Life for Science, Noted Radiographer Dies as Result of X-ray Experiments.”


The San Francisco Chronicle  headlines were similar: “Death of Famous Woman Radiographer, Mrs. Fleishman-Aschheim Succumes to Injuries Sustained in Pursuit of Profession.”


One account of her life stressed that “she was loved in the commu­nity for her genial disposition and womanly virtues.”


It was noted that in her death, “Science has lost one of the most ardent workers in the interests of afflicted humanity.”



In 1900, she married Israel J. Aschheim, the executive director of District Grand Lodge #4 (Pacific Coast), of B’nai B’rith.

When Elizabeth Fleishman-Asehheim died in San Francisco in 1905 from radiation poisoning, she was interred in Salem Cemetery, in Colma.


More information can be found in the following issues of Western States Jewish History:

Fleischmann-Aschheim, Elizabeth; Elizabeth Fleischmann-Aschheim: Pioneer X-Ray Photographer; San Francisco; Palmquist, Peter E; 23/1

Fleischmann-Aschheim, Elizabeth; Elizabeth Fleischmann-Aschheim: Pioneer X-Ray Photographer. Norton B. Stern.; 35/3&4.

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