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11.25.2014

Former UM Physiology Chair Werner Loewenstein Passes Away

Remembered for his bright intellect and expanding the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s scientific footprint, Werner Loewenstein, Ph.D., professor and former Chair of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, passed away on November 17. He was 88.

“Dr. Loewenstein left a lasting legacy at the Miller School and will be deeply missed by his family and colleagues,” said Karl Magleby, Ph.D., professor and Chair of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. “He’s equally remembered for his scientific curiosity, gentle humor, goodness of heart, and personal warmth.”

Upon joining the Miller School in 1971, Lowenstein recruited young faculty to build a strong department that became well known for its leading contributions to membrane biophysics.

The renowned scientist made notable contributions to biophysics. In the earlier part of his career, he studied mechano-transduction, dissecting the fine details of how Pacinian corpuscles can translate microscopic movements into trains of action potentials for vibrational touch sensation. He later became the first scientist to demonstrate direct cell-to-cell electrical coupling between epithelial cells using both electrophysiological techniques and also different dyes to characterize the physical properties of the gap junction channels involved. Figures from his work were prominent in physiology textbooks at the time.

The professor then turned his attention to more fundamental issues about life, which he presented in two books: Touchstone of Life — Molecular Information, Cell Communication, and the Foundations of Life and Physics in Mind — A Quantum View of the Brain, which was named “Best Physics Book of 2013” by Physics World magazine.

Among his other notable career accomplishments, he founded the Journal of Membrane Biology in 1967 to provide a journal that would be receptive to new work in the then-expanding field of membrane biology. He served as editor in chief until 2003.

After stepping down as Chair in 1992, he retired and left the University as an emeritus faculty member.

Lowenstein is survived by his wife and long-time scientific collaborator Birgit Rose Loewenstein, daughter Claudia Loewenstein, son Stewart Loewenstein, and four grandchildren.

Donations in his memory can be made to: Oyster Pond Environmental Trust, PO Box 496, Woods Hole, MA 02543, or to Keep Sedona Beautiful, 360 Brewer Rd., Sedona AZ 86336.

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