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Sir Oliver Scott, a philanthropist and radiation biologist and, therefore, the epitome of a gentleman and a scholar, was an early Director of the BECC Radiobiology Research Unit at Mount Vernon. His tenure preceded that of Jack Fowler, with both contributing to basic, translational and clinical thought and application in radiation across the globe. With respect to this review, Fowler's name in particular has remained synonymous with the use of models, both animal and mathematical, that assess and quantify the biological mechanisms that underlie radiation-associated normal tissue toxicities. An understanding of these effects is critical to the optimal use of radiation therapy in the clinic; however, the role that basic sciences play in clinical practice has been undergoing considerable change in recent years, particularly in the USA, where there has been a growing emphasis on engineering and imaging to improve radiation delivery, with empirical observations of clinical outcome taking the place of models underpinned by evidence from basic science experiments. In honour of Scott and Fowler's work, we have taken this opportunity to review how our respective fields of radiation biology and radiation physics have intertwined over the years, affecting the clinical use of radiation with respect to normal tissue outcomes. We discuss the past and current achievements, with the hope of encouraging a revived interest in physics and biology as they relate to radiation oncology practice, since, like Scott and Fowler, we share the goal of improving the future outlook for cancer patients.

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British Journal of Radiology