Pioneering Obesity Researcher Dies

Jules Hirsch, who described the link between body weight and metabolism, has died at age 88.

Jul 31, 2015
Amanda B. Keener

ROCKEFELLER UNIVERSITY

Physician-scientist Jules Hirsch, whose research led to the understanding that biological predisposition can contribute to a person’s body weight, passed away last week (July 23). He was 88.

Hirsch studied obesity at the Rockefeller University in New York for more than four decades. During that time, he and his colleagues found that body weight is determined by adipose cell numbers rather than size and published a groundbreaking study that demonstrated that energy expenditure and metabolism slow down as weight is lost, making it difficult to keep lost weight off. Hirsch also served as the president of the Association for Patient-Oriented Research and as the physician-in-chief at the Rockefeller University Hospital.

“Dr. Hirsch’s work was seminal in demonstrating that there is this flexibility of fat cell size, which provided an anatomic basis for a signal between the body’s adipose tissue and the brain,” Hirsch’s colleague Rudolph Leibel of Columbia University told The New York Times.

He is predeceased by his wife and survived by two sons.