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Hans Neurath
Hans Neurath
1909 – 2002
Founding Chair
Department of Biochemistry

The founding chair of the Department of Biochemistry, Professor Hans Neurath, passed away on Friday, April 12, 2002. As you can see from the following articles in the New York Times, Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Hans was a man of passion for proteins and for biochemistry, for mountains and for music, and for his dear wife Susi and his children. The department joins his family, countless friends, colleagues, and students in mourning the death of a great man who set the stage for our new world of proteomics, and the application of biomedical research to every aspect of human health and disease.
Neurath founded and chaired the department from 1950 until his formal retirement in 1975, but he remained scientifically active and continued to take a keen interest in the welfare of department for many years thereafter. Indeed, until February 2002, Neurath came to work every day, attended faculty meetings, and (as always!) expressed clear and forceful opinions on almost every subject.

In addition to his many scientific achievements in the field of protein chemistry, Neurath founded two major scientific journals: Biochemistry, a publication of the American Chemical Society, which he edited from 1961 to 1991; and Protein Science, a publication of the Protein Society, which he edited from 1991 to 1998. What better illustration of Neurath’s vision and energy than his decision, at age 81, to found and edit a new high profile journal at the cutting edge of contemporary research? He was not a man to rest on his many laurels.

Hans Neurath Lecturers

In 1983, ZymoGenetics and the Department of Biochemistry established the annual Hans Neurath Lectureship which has brought luminaries to the School of Medicine for two decades. ZymoGenetics, a Seattle biopharmaceutical firm, was founded in 1981 by two University of Washington faculty – Earl Davie, Professor of Biochemistry, who was himself a postdoctoral fellow with Neurath, and Benjamin Hall, Professor of Genetics – together with the late Michael Smith, Professor of Biochemistry at the University of British Columbia and a 1993 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry for site-directed DNA mutagenesis.

  • 1983 Arthur Kornberg
  • 1984 Manfred Eigen
  • 1985 Peter Reichard
  • 1986 Gerald Edelman
  • 1987 Paul Berg
  • 1988 David Baltimore
  • 1989 Bengt Samuelsson
  • 1990 Michael S. Brown
  • 1991 Harold Varmus
  • 1992 Daniel Nathans
  • 1993 H. Gobind Khorana
  • 1994 Aaron Klug
  • 1995 Edmond Fischer
  • 1996 Johann Deisenhofer
  • 1998 James Spudich
  • 1999 David Eisenberg
  • 2000 J. Michael Bishop
  • 2001 Gunter Blobel
  • 2003 Robert Huber
  • 2004 Linda Buck
  • 2005 Robert Roeder
  • 2006 Nancy Hopkins
  • 2007 Stephen Harrison
  • 2008 Avram Hershko
  • 2009 Christopher Dobson
Contributions to the Hans and Susi Neurath Gift fund can be made securely online

or by check made out to:

Department of Biochemistry
c/o Medical Affairs Development
University of Washington
Box 358220
Seattle, WA 98195-8220

The New York Times
Thursday, April 18
Hans Neurath, 92, Biochemist, Dies
by Wolfgang Saxon

Dr. Hans Neurath, a biochemist who advanced modern protein science to explain the makeup and workings of some of life’s elemental building blocks, died on Friday in Seattle. He was 92.

The founding chairman of the department of biochemistry at the University of Washington medical school, Dr. Neurath also started two scientific journals in his field. He edited one, Biochemistry, for the American Chemical Society from 1961 to 1991. That year, at 81, he started Protein Science, published for the Protein Society by the Cambridge University Press, and was its editor in chief until four years ago.

Dr. Neurath was among the first to apply modern physical and chemical techniques in examining the composition and function of proteins. The field came to be known as protein science.

Much of his research focused on a large class of proteins called proteases, which are enzymes that can digest other proteins in food or set off sequences of events that cause blood to clot.Born in Vienna, Hans Neurath received his doctorate in chemistry at the University of Vienna in 1933 and continued his studies in London and at the University of Minnesota. In 1938, he accepted an appointment at Duke University, where he established a research program in the physical chemistry of proteins.

In 1950, the University of Washington asked him to take over the biochemistry department of the medical school, where he conducted much of his research. He retired in 1975 but continued his research and worked as the part-time scientific director at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.In 1980, Dr. Neurath became the scientific director of the German government’s Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, a complex of nine institutes with more than 1,000 staff members. He returned to Seattle as professor emeritus late in 1981.

Dr. Neurath was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as a foreign member of the Max Planck Society of Germany.He spent six decades teaching and researching, publishing more than 400 scientific papers. He also edited three volumes of “The Proteins,” a standard reference source published by Academic Press.

Dr. Neurath is survived by his wife of 41 years, Susi Spitzer Neurath; a son from an earlier marriage, Peter F., of Seattle; a stepdaughter and stepson, Margaret Albrecht and Frank Meyer, both of Seattle; and three step-grandchildren.

The Seattle Times
Saturday, April 13, 2002
Hans Neurath, 1909 – 2002: “Father” of UW Biochemistry Department
by Susan Gilmore
Seattle Times Staff Reporter

Just two weeks ago, when Hugh Spitzer visited the home of his aunt and uncle, Hans and Susi Neurath, he found Hans Neurath engrossed with a colleague, editing a biochemistry article.

Even in his 90s, he still had a passion for his science. “He was extremely dedicated to his work,” Spitzer said. Dr. Neurath, 92, died yesterday of heart failure.

Considered the father of the University of Washington Department of Biochemistry, Dr. Neurath maintained an office at the UW and would often drop in years after he retired. “My father was one of the towering intellects that came out of this period,” said his son, Peter Neurath.

Born in Vienna, Austria, in 1909, Dr. Neurath taught at Cornell University and Duke University before being appointed chairman of the newly established Department of Biochemistry at the UW’s School of Medicine in 1950. The department began with four faculty members and grew to become one of the most respected on the West Coast.

In 1975, he became scientific director at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, while continuing research on proteins and enzymes at the UW. His research included the study of proteolytic enzymes, or protein catalysts, that digest protein in the foods humans eat.

At age 71, Dr. Neurath was named scientific director of the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, overseeing a staff of 1,000. He returned to the UW as professor emeritus two years later.

Dr. Neurath was the first UW faculty member to be selected as a member of the National Academy of Sciences, Peter Neurath said.

Dr. Neurath was the author of more than 400 publications, and he founded and edited the journal Biochemistry. In 1991, at age 81, he founded another journal, Protein Science, where he served as editor until 1998.

Dr. Neurath also served on the national science planning board of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.

Three of the faculty members who worked in Dr. Neurath’s department were awarded Nobel Prizes in physiology and medicine. One of them, Edwin Krebs, said: “He created the type of scientific environment that enabled us to do the work we did.”

Away from the UW, Dr. Neurath had a passion for the mountains, said his son. “I don’t think he was ever happier than when he was in the mountains skiing and hiking,” Peter Neurath said. “He was skiing into his late 80s.”

Dr. Neurath loved to go to Sun Valley, Idaho, and he and his wife owned a cabin at Crystal Mountain.

Dr. Neurath also was an accomplished pianist, but he once told his son that he became a scientist because a good friend of his was a pianist and he knew he could never play as well as his friend.

To the last moments of his life, he loved biochemistry and his friends who embraced it, Susi Neurath said. “Whenever he had time, he did things related to biochemistry,” she said, adding that just three days ago he was planning on returning to his UW office.

In addition to his wife and son, Dr. Neurath is survived by stepchildren Margaret Albrecht and Frank Meyer of Seattle.

At Dr. Neurath’s request, there will be no services, though a memorial event will be planned later. The family asks that remembrances be sent to Medic 1 Foundation, 325 Ninth Ave., Seattle, WA 98104.

Copyright © 2002 The Seattle Times Company

Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Saturday, April 13, 2002
Hans Neurath, biochemist of renown, dies
Founder of UW department was researcher and mentor

by Elaine Porterfield and Candace Heckman
Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporters

Dr. Hans Neurath, a medical researcher at the University of Washington and a giant in the field of international biochemistry, died yesterday of heart failure. He was 92.

His 60-year career swept through an exploding field at some of the most prestigious academic centers and laboratories in the world.

As the first biochemistry department chairman at the university’s fledgling medical school in 1950, Dr. Neurath is credited for recruiting a strong faculty and fostering an atmosphere for academic research, for which the medical school is renowned.

His passion for medicine kept him active in research until his death, analyzing, assisting and mentoring in the research of others, family members say. Dr. Neurath was also considered one of the founding fathers of modern protein science, according to UW researchers.

By pursuing his own discoveries, which made him an internationally famous biochemist, he led his team of professors by example, said Dr. Edwin Krebs, a 1992 Nobel laureate who shared the prize in medicine for work in protein science. The other UW professor who shared the prize, Dr. Edmond Fischer, was directly recruited by Dr. Neurath. “People he trained as graduate students and postdoctoral fellows are now in highly important positions around the world,” Krebs said yesterday. “His research was highly original and very solid.”

Born Oct. 29, 1909, in Vienna, Austria, Dr. Neurath received a doctorate from the University of Vienna and conducted postdoctoral work at the University of London and the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Neurath taught at Cornell University and Duke University before moving to the UW. He was 70 years old when he retired from the administration at the university. He then became associate director of research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in 1975. Two years later, he resumed his protein research at the UW.

He is also known around the world as the founding editor of Biochemistry, one of the most prestigious journals in the field. At the age of 81, he founded a new journal, Protein Science, serving as editor in chief until 1998. His career also included election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1961 and an appointment to the Max Planck Society of Germany, along with numerous advisory posts to governmental and private research organizations around the world.

He was also on the National Science Planning Board of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.

In 1980, Dr. Neurath accepted the position of scientific director of the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, which had a staff of 1,000. After reorganizing its scientific and administrative structure, he returned to the UW.

He also received numerous scientific honors and degrees from universities and research institutions around the world. Dr. Neurath is also namesake to the largest annual award by The Protein Society, an international organization based in Washington, D.C.

His was also a life marked by a passion for the mountains and for music; he was an accomplished pianist. “We did a lot of mountaineering and skiing; he loved it,” said Susi Neurath, his wife of 41 years. “We went to Sun Valley, Switzerland. We went to Crystal Mountain every weekend.

“In the summer we went to Canadian Rockies,” she said. “He was always somewhere in the mountains. That was the big disappointment, when it came to an end.” Dr. Neurath is survived by his wife; a son, Peter, of Seattle; and his stepchildren, Margaret Albrecht and Frank Meyer, also of Seattle.

A memorial will be scheduled at a later date. The family asks that remembrances be donated to the Medic One Foundation of Seattle.