People: Memorial Lecture Instituted To Honor Nathan Shock, Father Of Gerontology

To honor the late Nathan W. Shock, known widely in the scientific community as the "father of gerontology," his colleagues at the National Institute on Aging's Gerontology Research Center have established a lasting tribute to him in the form of an annual scientific lecture bearing his name. The first Nathan W. Shock Memorial Lecture will take place June 8, at the NIA Gerontology Research Center in Baltimore. Shock - who died last November at the age of 82 - was head of the Gerontology Research

Apr 30, 1990
Colby Stong

To honor the late Nathan W. Shock, known widely in the scientific community as the "father of gerontology," his colleagues at the National Institute on Aging's Gerontology Research Center have established a lasting tribute to him in the form of an annual scientific lecture bearing his name. The first Nathan W. Shock Memorial Lecture will take place June 8, at the NIA Gerontology Research Center in Baltimore.

Shock - who died last November at the age of 82 - was head of the Gerontology Research Center of the National Institutes of Health for nearly 35 years before the establishment of the National Institute on Aging in 1975, when he became its scientific director. The following year he was named scientist emeritus at the center, where he worked until his death. He served as president of the International Association of Gerontology, scientific chairman for the International Association of Gerontology, and scientific chairman for the American Heart Association.

Philip W. Landfield, professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest University's Bowman Gray School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., will deliver the first Shock lecture, "The Glucocor-ticoid Hypothesis of Brain Aging." Landfield says that although he knew Shock for only a short time, the late gerontologist's work has left a lasting impression on him. Shock was "a pioneer in the development of modern gerontological research," Landfield says. "I think [the annual lecture] will grow and become important to gerontology."

Shock was one of the first scientists to foresee the importance of using longitudinal methods to study human aging. He and his colleagues explored the physiology of aging in the heart, kidneys, lungs, nerves, and brain, among other areas of study. They clocked the varying rates at which different parts of the body age and documented the fact that people age at vastly different rates. Landfield says this particular aspect of Shock's research - the study of aging by the interaction of systems - is now a major component of research on aging.

The author of more than 300 journal articles and books, Shock detailed his research, including his study of the physiology of aging, in Scientific American 206:100-10, 1962; and The International Association of Gerontology: A chronicle - 1950-1986, New York, Springer, 1988. In addition, he initiated and edited "Current Publications in Gerontology and Geriatrics," published in the Journal of Gerontology from 1951 to 1980.

Shock earned his B.S. in chemistry in 1926, his M.S. in organic chemistry in 1927 from Purdue University, and his Ph.D. in physiology/psychology in 1930 from the University of Chicago.

Landfield earned his B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1966, and his Ph.D. in byology at UC-Irvine in 1971. --Colby Stong