Eugene Garfield (1925-2017)
He founded the Institute of Scientific Information (ISI) in 1955, where he launched the Citation Index, a system to chart connections between pieces of scientific literature that later became the basis of the Web of Science. “Before [ISI’s] Web of Science, scientists and researchers had very inefficient methods for finding and tracing other scientific documents. The citation database was not just an intellectual achievement, but also an engineering achievement,” C. Sean Burns, an assistant professor of information science at the University of Kentucky whose PhD research was supported partially by a fellowship bearing Garfield’s name, told The Scientist in February. “His work enabled information retrieval to scale up. . . . This created, basically, the entire information science field as we know it today.”
In 1986, Garfield founded The Scientist, as a news magazine for researchers. This creation was a “labor of love,” said The Scientist’s former editor-in-chief, Mary Beth Aberlin. “More than 30 years later, it is an honor to carry on his legacy.”
Thomas Starzl (1926-2017)
After that first liver transplant, it took four years until Starzl conducted a transplant in which the patient survived at least a year. He launched the country’s first liver transplant program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine where he developed various approaches to prevent organ rejection. “We regard him as the father of transplantation,” Abhinav Humar, clinical director of the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Institute, told the Associated Press. “His legacy in transplantation is hard to put into words—it’s really immense.”
Fotis Kafatos (1940-2017)
Kafatos was the founding president of the European Research Council, a public funding body that allocates money to science and technology in the E.U. He told The Scientist in 2007, at the time of the organization’s founding, that “the most important added value of a world-class European organization like the ERC will be its role as a model for best practice and as a catalyst for change at national levels in Europe.”
Donald Coffey (1932-2017)
He is well known for his discovery of the nuclear protein matrix—the protein network that physically supports the cell nucleus—along with Ronald Berezney, now a professor at the University of Buffalo. Their paper describing the finding has since been cited more than 1,100 times, according to Google Scholar. William Nelson, director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at John Hopkins, says in the obituary that Coffey had a profound influence on his field of research: “His impact on cancer and the people who will ultimately solve the cancer problem is immeasurable.”
Isabella Karle (1921-2017)
Her husband, Jerome Karle, had received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with Herbert Hauptman in 1985 for developing the technique, but Isabella Karle helped demonstrate how it could be used. “After I found some structures that no one could have dreamt of solving before, it started to get a lot of attention,” she told The New York Times in 2013.
Karle was inspired early on by renowned physicist Marie Curie, and she accomplished bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees before she turned 23. Her husband told The Los Angeles Times upon receiving the Nobel Prize that his wife also deserved it. “I can’t think of anyone who is more qualified than my wife.”
Nicolaas Bloembergen (1920-2017)
Bloembergen explored various new applications of laser technologies, including surgery and optical-fiber communication, as well as MRI. “We certainly had no inkling at all that our work would eventually lead to MRI,” he said in a 2013 interview posted on yscouts.com. “You never know of these implications. It’s always fascinated me.”
Samuel Allen Counter (1944-2017)
Counter later founded and directed the Harvard Foundation of Intercultural and Race Relations. “Harvard has lost a great champion of inclusion and belonging in Dr. Allen Counter,” Harvard President Drew Faust told the Harvard Gazette this year. “[He] challenged all of us to imagine and strive for a more welcoming University and a more peaceful world.”
John Robertson (1943-2017)
“John was one of the earliest law professors to consider medicine from an ethical and policy perspective,” Rebecca Dresser, a bioethicist and law professor at Washington University, said in a 2010 press release. “He showed the rest of us how it could be done, and done well.”
Philip Coppens (1930-2017)
Originally from the Netherlands, where he earned his doctorate, Coppens went on to the Weizmann Institute where he worked with chemist Gerhard Schmidt. There he was encouraged to use X-ray crystallography not just for the determination of chemical structures, but for solving chemical problems.
“Philip was a giant in his field and pioneered the technique of time-resolved X-ray crystallography, which has become a major area in X-ray science,” David Watson, professor and chair of the chemistry department at the University at Buffalo, said in a press release. “He was renowned for promoting the discipline, organizing international meetings, and mentoring younger colleagues in his field.”
Isabelle Rapin (1927-2017)
Rapin did much work on autism in children and on its biological foundation, and helped popularize the notion that autism is a spectrum of disorders. “Calling her one of the founding mothers of autism is very appropriate,” Thomas Frazier II, a clinical psychologist and chief science officer of Autism Speaks, an advocacy group for people with autism, told The New York Times after her death. “With the gravity she carried, she moved us into a modern understanding of autism.”
Henri Termeer (1946-2017)
“His vision was to cure rare diseases, and he always had time to meet with the people dependent on our treatments,” David Meeker, president of Sanofi Genzyme, told the Boston Globe. “He had the ability to forge such an intense relationship with everyone he met, and he made everyone in the industry feel like he cared about them as an individual.”
Julius Youngner (1920-2017)
Youngner also contributed to the development of other vaccines, for instance, one against equine influenza. He had told American Medical News that playing a part in the polio vaccine was “exhilarating—and that doesn’t even describe it, because I’ve been on a high ever since.”
Mark Wainberg (1945-2017)
Wainberg led the AIDS Center at McGill University and served as president of the International AIDS Society from 1998 to 2000. He advocated for HIV patients throughout his career. “Canada and the world have lost a great scientist and a great man,” Julio Montaner of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS told The Globe and Mail.
Amar Klar (1947-2017)
Geoffrey Raisman (1939-2017)
In 1974, Raisman became one of the youngest heads of the Division of Neurobiology at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research in London, where he created a Spinal Repair Unit. In 2014, his techniques were used to help a paralyzed Bulgarian man regain the ability to walk.
“It is immensely gratifying to see that years of research have now led to the development of a safe technique for transplanting cells into the spinal cord,” Raisman had said at the time, according to The Jewish Chronicle. “I believe we have now opened the door to a treatment of spinal cord injury that will get patients out of wheelchairs.”
Peter Mansfield (1933-2017)
Mansfield was a 15-year-old-high school drop-out, but then began to take evening classes to get into university. He eventually attended Queen Mary University London where he became fascinated by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR).
As a lecturer at Nottingham University, Mansfield began to work on improving NMR imaging, and built a first MRI prototype in which he volunteered to be the first person to be scanned. “He was the guinea pig,” Richard Bowtell, a former student of Mansfield and a current professor at Nottingham, told The New York Times. “There was the worry it would knock him dead.” Mansfield was knighted in 1993 for his scientific contributions, and was awarded the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with the American chemist Paul Lauterbur for their work on MRI technology.
Hans Rosling (1948-2017)
During his work on tracking the Ebola epidemic in 2015, Rosling visited Liberia himself to gather data on patients’ contacts in order to look for additional infections. “We have to make a meticulously perfect system work in a country where such a system cannot exist,” Rosling told Science at the time. “This is the biggest intellectual challenge I have participated in in my life.”
Peter Nowell (1928-2016)
Ben Barres (1954-2017)
As a transgender and gay man, Barres advocated for minorities and the LGBT community.
In his last year of life, Barres continued to make important contributions to the field of glia research, notably, finding that rogue astrocytes could cause the death of other brain cells.
Update (December 28): Ben Barres was added to this list after his death on December 27.