Elizabeth Fleischman-Aschheim: Heroic Jewish Radiologist of San Francisco

Elizabeth Fleischman-Aschheim‎

Elizabeth Fleishman-Anchheim WS 14/1982

Elizabeth Fleischman-Aschheim, #WS14/1982

Value Codes I – E – L – P


Elizabeth Fleischman-Aschheim was born in 1859 in El Dorado County in the Gold County of California.

Though virtually unknown in the annals of American Jewish history, she was recognized as a martyr to the new science of radiology.


San Francisco

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

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

Fleischman-Aschheim began experimenting with X-rays in 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 Fleischman-Aschheim who took the X-rays that located bul­lets and shell-splinters imbedded in their bodies so that 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 for Army hospitals on the West Coast.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Fleischman-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, and died seven months later of radiation poisoning at the age of 46. She was interred in Salem Cemetery, in Colma.

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

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

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

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



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



  • Peter E. Plamquist, “Elizabeth Fleischmann-Aschheim: Pioneer X-Ray Photographer,” Western States Jewish History 23/1.
  • Norton B. Stern, “Elizabeth Fleischmann-Aschheim: Pioneer X-Ray Photographer,” Western States Jewish History 35/3&4.