Obituaries 2020

IN 2019 (NOT INCLUDED LAST YEAR)

James Victor Dingell (died December 21, 2019, at 88) worked in research at NIH in the 1950s and early 1960s, returned to NIH in 1975, and spent time at various institutes including the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, from which he retired in the late 1990s.

Robert Dobie (died September 4, 2019, at 74) held clinical positions at the NIH Clinical Center and was the director of extramural research (1999–2002) at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. His research focused on the effects of noise exposure and aging on hearing health, shedding light on the high prevalence of hearing loss and the value of hearing–conservation programs.

Daniel Samuel Zahrko (died May 2, 2019, at 88) started at NIH in the 1960s in NCI’s Pharmacy Associate Program. He became a senior scientist and later the director of Pharmacokinetics and branch chief of Pharmacology in NCI’s Experimental Drug Development Program. He retired in 1992 after 24 years at NIH and worked as a pharmacology consultant for 10 years before fully retiring.


IN 2020

Duane Alexander (died February 14, 2020, at 79) was the director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) from 1986 to 2009, during which time he oversaw multiple achievements, including the demonstration of the safety and efficacy of amniocentesis for prenatal genetic diagnosis; the prevention of acquired intellectual and developmental disability caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b meningitis, phenylketonuria, and other conditions; the establishment of effective newborn screening programs; and the reduction of sudden infant death syndrome rates and launch of the Back to Sleep campaign (now called Safe to Sleep®).

Gertrude Axilrod (died April 10, 2020, at 103) was a biochemist and technical information specialist in NCI’s Dermatology Branch (1960s) and worked in the NIH documentation section for 14 years until 1982, when she retired.

Beatrice Addai Bowie (died Jan 23, 2020, at 68) was a sickle-cell disease warrior, a patient in NHLBI, a long-time member of the NIH Patient Advisory Group, and a patient representative on the NIH Clinical Center Research Hospital Board.

Arthur A. Campbell (died March 10, 2020, at 96) was an eminent demographer at NIH, where he served as deputy director of NICHD’s Center for Population Research (1968–1994). He was best known for his contributions to the study of fertility.

Martha Janet Caro-Yambot (died June 24, 2020, at 40), a librarian at the NIH Patient Library, helped bring joy to patients with her vast knowledge of books and recommendations.

Nikolai Chub (died January 10, 2020, at 59), a staff scientist in the section on developmental neurobiology in the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, worked at NIH for 28 years. A neurophysiologist, he pioneered the understanding of the mechanisms regulating the genesis and organization of motor activity in the developing spinal cord.

Margaritha Barbara Cole (died April 19, 2020, at 84), who provided memorable retail warmth at the Recreation and Welfare Association Gift Shop when it was a large operation on the B1 level of Building 31, retired in 2006 after a 27-year career at NIH.

John Thomas Crawford (died September 23, 2020, at 71) joined NIH in 1978 and worked as a medical photographer for 34 years. He received many commendations for his work, and his pictures were used to find the treatment for AIDS. He also photographed the first gene-therapy treatment and many events at NIH. He was known for making the patients as comfortable as possible while taking the necessary photographs.

Murray Eden (died August 9, 2020, eight days shy of his 100th birthday) was a pioneer in biomedical engineering and the director of the trans-NIH Biomedical Engineering and Physical Science Program (later became the intramural research program the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering) for 18 years. He retired from NIH in 1994.

Thomas Guy Fanning (died March 25, 2020, at 76) was a microbiologist at NCI from 1984 to 1990. His research at the University of California at Davis, at NCI, and finally at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, centered on endogenous retroviruses and on characterizing the 1918 influenza virus. His wife, Giesela Heidecker, worked for many years at NCI-Frederick on HIV.

Isaiah “Josh” Fidler (died May 8, 2020, at 83), who founded the MD Anderson Department of Cancer Biology in 1983, led the metastasis program at NCI-Frederick from 1975 to 1983. He was a pioneer in understanding the complexities of metastases and what makes them so hard to treat.

Frederick A. Fox (died November 23, 2020, at 97) did a residency in anatomical and clinical pathology at NIH, and became director of Clinical Chemistry in 1959, before leaving NIH in 1960.

Miriam Gershfeld (died October 18, 2020, at 89, from complications of COVID-19) spent 20 years as a medical librarian at the National Library of Medicine, and was also a chemistry technical information specialist at NIH’s Center for Scientific Review before retiring in 2001. She played violin in the NIH orchestra. She is survived by her husband, Norman, who worked for 40 years as a physical chemist at NIH.

John Giovanelli (died May 5, 2020, at 89), who began his career at NIH in 1965 as a principal investigator in the greenhouse laboratory of General and Comparative Biochemistry, retired in 1995.

Harvey Gralnick (died February 3, 2020, at 82), who came to NIH in the 1960s, was chief of hematology and oncology at the NIH Clinical Center before retiring in 2001. He was a respected expert on von Willebrand disease, a hereditary blood-clotting disorder.

Jerome “Jerry” Green and Marie Röder Green (died two weeks apart—Jerry on April 20, 2020, and Marie on May 1, 2020; both were 91 and both succumbed to COVID-19) were long-standing citizens of NIH. Jerry served as an associate director and a division director at NHLBI and then as the director of research grants before retiring in 1995. Marie was a lab researcher in NCI and discovered a technique to easily detect carcinogens in lipstick dyes.

Annie Harrison: (died January 5, 2020, at 65), an NIH employee for almost 50 years, worked at the Safra Family Lodge, which offers a homelike place for families and loved ones of adult patients who are receiving care at the NIH Clinical Center.

Donald E. Henson (died September 29, 2020, at 85) was an internationally renowned pathologist and cancer researcher at the NCI Laboratory of Pathology in the 1970s, as well as a captain in the United States Public Health Officer Commissioned Corps. In collaboration with the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, he was among the first to show that nuclear magnetic resonance imaging could detect cancer in the living animal. He was also instrumental in developing cancer-staging guidelines.

Larry K. Keefer (died September 11, 2020, at 80), who held research and leadership positions in NCI (1971–2015), made major contributions to the understanding of the chemistry of carcinogenic nitrosamines and landmark discoveries that opened the field of nitric oxide to become one of the major fields in biomedical science.

Richard “James” King (died March 30, 2020, at 52) was the NIH Library’s Information Resources and Services Branch Chief and the 2014 Federal Librarian of the Year. Before coming to NIH in 2009, he spent 20 years as a specialist in library information technology at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.

Leonard Laster (died October 24, 2020, at 92), an accomplished gastroenterologist and later an academic administrator, conducted research at the National Institute of Arthritis, Metabolic, and Digestive Diseases from 1954 to 1973 and, beginning in 1969, was chief of its Digestive and Hereditary Diseases Branch. He made significant contributions to the field of gastroenterology and metabolic diseases including his research on celiac disease and his discovery of the biochemical pathway for the inborn disease of alkaptonuria.

Philip Leder (died February 2, 2020, at 85), among the world’s most accomplished molecular geneticists, was an undergraduate intern in the National Heart Institute in the 1950s and returned in 1962 as a postdoc with Marshall Nirenberg, who won the Nobel Prize in 1968. Leder’s work with Nirenberg—namely, the famed Nirenberg and Leder experiments starting in the 1960s, which elucidated the triplet nature of the genetic code and culminated in its full deciphering—helped set the stage for the revolution in molecular genetic research that Leder himself would continue to lead for the next three decades. In 1980, he left NIH to become the founding chairman of Harvard Medical School’s Genetics Department.

István (Stephen) Oroszlán (died May 9, 2020, at 92, from complications of COVID-19) was best known for his groundbreaking research that played a central role in the development of HIV protease inhibitors, which became a mainstay in the treatment of HIV-infected individuals. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the NCI from 1961 to 1963, returned in 1976, and, from 1983 to 1995, directed the Laboratory of Molecular Virology and Carcinogenesis at NCI-Frederick. Upon his retirement in 1995, he was awarded scientist emeritus status and remained involved in the HIV Drug Resistance Program.

Ida Stephens Owens (died February 24, 2020, at 80), the first African American woman to earn a doctoral degree from Duke University in 1967, was internationally known for her contributions to the understanding of the genetics of drug metabolism. She came to NIH in 1968 to do postdoctoral fellowships in what was then the National Institute of Arthritis, Metabolic, and Digestive Diseases and later in NICHD. She started her own laboratory in NICHD in 1975 and retired in 2017.

Nora Meehan Quade (died November 24, 2020, at 51) was a nurse in medical surgery and most recently in research at the NIH Clinical Center.

David J. Remondini (died May 7, 2020, at 88), a legendary scientific review officer at NIH’s Center for Scientific Review (1977–2013), became a volunteer in the Office of NIH History after he retired to curate a unique collection of grant reviews gathered from his own tenure and that of his predecessor (Kay Wilson) dating back to the 1950s and the birth of the field of molecular genetics.

Umberto Saffiotti (died September 8, 2020, at 90) joined NCI in 1968. His work on cancer causation included interdisciplinary efforts to regulate environmental carcinogens and contributed to the establishment of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Harold Scheraga (died August 1, 2020, at 98), a pioneer in protein biophysics, was a professor at Cornell but had connections with NIH, too. In addition to visiting NIH each year for a few months at a time, he was a Fogarty Scholar in residence (in the 1980s and did much to help protein studies at NIH.

Joseph Scotto (died August 5, 2020, at 81), a retired biostatistician and epidemiologist at NCI, worked in the Biostatistics Branch as a commissioned officer in the Public Health Service (1962–1992). He applied his expertise in statistics toward the development of population-based studies of skin cancer.

Winona Sue Shafer (died December 17, 2020, at 79), who served in research administration at NIH for 25 years, was interested in mentoring women scientists and in the institutional climates for them.

Ulrich Klaus Siebenlist (died August 4, 2020, at 68), an internationally recognized molecular immunologist, did his postdoctoral training in Philip Leder’s (see obit) lab at both the NIH and Harvard Medical School. Siebenlist was recruited back to NIH in the 1980s as an investigator in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID); he was chief of NIAID’s Immune Activation Section in the Laboratory of Molecular Immunology when he died.

Gilbert Howlett Smith (died July 6, 2020, at 81), an NCI senior investigator, had retired on June 30 and had just been named NIH scientist emeritus on July 1. In 1965, he came to NCI as a staff fellow and became a senior investigator in 1970. His discovery of the mammary stem cell in breast tissue influenced generations in the field. His proposal of tissue-specific stem cells was far ahead of its time and is now a foundation in the field of developmental biology.

Herbert Tabor (died Aug 20, 2020, at 101) a senior principal investigator in the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) until his death, was the world’s foremost authority on the enzymatic pathways of polyamines, as well as an esteemed editor of the Journal of Biological Chemistry for 40 years. He served as chief of NIDDK’s Laboratory of Biochemistry and Genetics until 1999. His wife, Celia, who died in 2012, was a physician–scientist at NIDDK and an expert on the biosynthesis of polyamines. The two started work together at NIH in 1952.

Leslie Ungerleider (died December 11, 2020, at 74), chief of the Laboratory of Brain and Cognition at the National Institute of Mental Health, joined NIH in 1975. She studied how the brain processes visual information and made the landmark discovery, with a colleague, of two cortical visual systems (now known colloquially as the “what and where” pathways)—one for object recognition and the other for visuospatial perception.

Richard “Bud” Veech (died February 2, 2020, at 85), considered by many to be the father of metabolomics and of the field of ketones as it relates to longevity, was chief of the Laboratory of Metabolic Control in the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). He was a true hero as well, having narrowly survived a plane crash in New Hampshire in 1968 and risking his life to save others on board. He began his 50-year career at NIH shortly thereafter and was first a medical officer in NIMH, and then NIAAA in 1974, becoming lab chief in 2000. Among his key discoveries was that molecule called beta-hydroxybutyrate, also known as a ketone body, which is generated naturally by the liver when a person fasts or is starving, could “super-charge” metabolism by increasing the potential energy of the nucleotide coenzyme called adenosine triphosphate.

Leo von Euler (died December 17, 2020, at 89, of an illness related to COVID-19,) who retired from NIH in 1987, was a pathologist and former deputy director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. His grandfather and father were both Nobel Prize winners: His grandfather, Hans von Euler-Chelpin, won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1929; his father, Ulf von Euler, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1970.

Forrest Fielding Weight Jr. (died November 14, 2020, at 84), a molecular and cellular neurobiologist, started working at NIH in the summers in the 1960s. He spent his career researching the molecular and cellular physiology and pharmacology of the nervous system.

Robert (Bob) Wayne Wheat (died February 19, 2020, at 93) was one of the first postdoctoral scientists at NIH studying metabolic disease. Although he spent his career at Duke University, he worked several summers at the NIH Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Montana.

Flossie Wong-Staal (died July 8, 2020, at 73), a major figure in the discovery of HIV and the first to clone the virus, also discovered molecular evidence of microvariation in HIV, which led to the use of “drug cocktails” to manage AIDS. She also provided the molecular biology necessary for the second-generation blood test for HIV. She worked at NCI from 1973 to 1990, first as a visiting fellow in Robert Gallo’s lab, then as a senior scientist, and became section chief of the NCI Laboratory of Tumor Cell Biology in 1982. She left NIH in 1990 for the University of California at San Diego, where she started the Center for AIDS Research.

Leepo Cheng Yu (died April 28, 2020, at 80) was a long-time muscle biologist, an expert on the molecular architecture of muscle fibers, and a lab chief in the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. During her 36 years at NIH, she studied the molecular structure, organization, binding, and kinetics of muscle proteins. She was a charismatic individual who lived a bit of a “double life” as a performer of Chinese opera.


Dmitri Vitalievich Zaykin (died December 28, 2020, at 54), an internationally recognized statistical geneticist, joined the Biostatistics Branch at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in October 2004. Some of his most impactful work related to understanding and modeling the balance between spurious and real findings in high–throughput genetic data, such as genome–wide association studies.


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