W. Maxwell Cowan, renowned neurobiologist and former chief scientific officer of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), died of prostate cancer on June 30 at his home in Rockville, Maryland. He was 70.
A leader in academic medicine, the South African native immigrated to the United States in 1966 after completing his MD and PhD degrees in England. He became chair of anatomy and neurobiology at Washington University, St. Louis, where he would later go on to become provost and executive vice chancellor. From 1980 until 1986, he was vice president at the Salk Institute. In 1987, he became chief scientific officer of HHMI from 1987 to 2000.
At HHMI, he helped to double the number of investigators and broaden the range of areas and number of universities supported by the institution.
In the laboratory, Cowan was known as an innovator in neurobiology, particularly for his research...