In Memoriam: David Kritchevsky

Presented by G. Rothblat

Twenty-six years ago my colleague, Vincent Crostofalo, and I were asked to write a dedication to David Kritchevsky on the occasion of his 60th birthday that was published in the journal Atherosclerosis. I would like to present an updated version of that dedication now. David Kritchevsky died on November 20, 2006.
In 1958 David Kritchevsky wrote the following as part of the preface to his book Cholesterol: which was the first single authored volume on cholesterol that had ever been published.
"Some of the keenest scientific intellects have focused their attention on this sterol. Indeed, a roll call of these investigators whose names have appeared on publications concerned with cholesterol would be a scientific elite".
For more than fifty years Dave focused his keen intellect on the metabolism of cholesterol and the mechanisms underlying the development of atherosclerosis, and in so doing, has added his name to the list of scientific elite.
After receiving his PhD in organic chemistry at Northwestern University in 1948, he studied in Zurich at the Federal Institute of Technology. He then became a staff member at the Radiation Laboratory in Berkeley. During this period he pioneered research in the preparation, detection, and analysis of tritiated sterols. Other important research during this period included studies on the biosynthesis of cholesterol from various precursors. From 1952 to 1957, David was with the Virus and Rickettsial Research Section at Lederle Laboratories in Pearl River, New York. It was during this period that he began his studies on diet and lipid metabolism and the role of lipid metabolism in atherosclerosis. He continued these studies to the time of his passing. In 1957, he joined the staff of The Wistar Institute. He was the Associate Director of that institute, and Wistar Professor of Biochemistry at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania.
Again I, a quote from his 1958 volume.
"I undertook the writing of this in an effort to organize the vast cholesterol literature for my own use. In the several years that I had been engaged in research in this field, I had been impressed by the lack of a centralized source of information".
In this volume, Dave was remarkably successful in single-handedly bringing together and focusing the diverse information then available on sterol metabolism. He continued these efforts as author of numerous review articles. In addition, as editor of over 20 individual volumes of serial publications, Dave provided an unbiased forum for the publication of new concepts and advances in lipid chemistry and metabolism. For many years he played a central role in stimulating scientific communications by dedicating his time and organizational abilities to the development of numerous national and international committees, symposia and meetings. Thus, throughout the years he continued to serve as a unifying force as well as a catalyst for the development and interchange of scientific thought.
On a more personal note, anyone who had ever met Dave was immediately impressed with his warmth and friendliness. His keen sense of humor was quickly apparent. Despite the competitive nature of this field, Dave's wit and charm helped all of us maintain a sense of proportion. What's more, generations of biochemistry students have learned the cholesterol pathway from his cleverly composed songs. In fact, the progress of scientific achievement in the area of atherosclerosis research can be traced through a review of his songs and poems. In 2003, the American Oil Chemists Society collected many of his songs and commentaries and published them as a small volume. With the assistance of the American Oil Chemists Society, I have been able to have this volume republished and copies are available at the back of the room. I urge you to take a copy since it presents a real sense of the man.
Finally, I wish to call attention to an aspect of Dave's character for with I feel he had not received sufficient recognition. That is, the encouragement, support and guidance he gave to a large number of young investigators, both those who began their careers in his own laboratory, as well as many others in the scientific community. He used his outstanding reputation in subtle ways to assist the development of young scientists, often without their knowledge.
I asked Barbara Howard, who was Dave's first graduate student, to help me update this dedication. After reading the dedication, Barbara and I believe that in the past 27 years since the original was written, David's contributions continued to accumulate. His interests broadened to include the effect of diet on both atherosclerosis and cancer, and significant contributions were made from studies on saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, plant sterols, fiber, antioxidant vitamins and carbohydrates. The list of his research publications, review articles and presentations steadily increased, including a book on Dietary Fiber edited in 2003, and he continued to influence the scientific community by participating in ongoing debates on issues relating to nutrition, to cardiovascular disease and cancer. He continued as a recipient of an NIH Research Career Award for 44 years, and last year was the first recipient of the Career Achievement Award from the American Society of Nutrition. His wit and humor did not diminish, nor did his support of young scientists. He will be greatly missed.


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