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In memoriam

doi: 10.1097/HJH.0b013e328323fa22
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David F. Bohr


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David F. Bohr, a professor of physiology at the University of Michigan and one of the foremost hypertension researchers world-wide, died on the 4th of November, 2008 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Dr. Bohr was born in Zurich, Switzerland, lived for five years as a boy in Cuba, and received most of his childhood education in southern California. In 1933, he entered the University of Michigan, matriculated in 1936 in its medical school and graduated in 1942. Bohr interned at Henry Ford Hospital for one year before being assigned by the U.S. Army to a Dutch hospital ship for three years of duty as laboratory officer and detachment commander (1943–46). Dr. Bohr trained for two years as a research fellow at the University of California in San Francisco (1946–48). Following this fellowship, he returned to the University of Michigan, and in 1957 was promoted to the rank of professor.

His early work focused on the mechanisms of vascular smooth muscle contraction with two key publications in Science and one in Nature between 1963 and 1965. These in depth studies of vascular smooth muscle physiology were followed by highly original and innovative work on the role played by the vasculature in the development of hypertension as well as studies on electrolyte transport, cell membrane permeability and experimental models of hypertension. He was the recipient of many important awards, including the 1984 Ciba Award for Hypertension Research and the Gold Heart Award from the American Heart Association. In 2007, Dr Bohr received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of Michigan.

Dr Bohr was a dedicated educator and an exceptionally generous mentor to numerous scientists and students. His generosity in sharing original ideas was legendary and there are many professors of physiology and medicine world-wide who were enthused by David Bohr as trainees. When experiments didn't work or papers were rejected, he advised his trainees to put on their telfon coats, a simple and yet effective advice that have been passed to the next generation of scientists.

David was the consummate scientist and he loved martinis or maybe, it was more like an appreciation of good gin and how to find it. It wasn't the alcohol, it was the scientific method behind how to make the perfect martini. In the mid-eighties, David made a bet with another prominent scientist from United Kingdom whom we will not mention. The wager was a case of gin and the test was simply to identify a specific gin out of four possibilities. For nearly a month, David was experimenting. He bought four or five different gins and would put 100 mL aliquots in plastic bottles for sampling and testing (he measured each with a graduated cylinder). He would then ask that we randomize these and label them. Then, he would sniff and taste each and make notes (carbon paper and all). This was a very serious experiment and it would consume 30 to 60 min on about three afternoons a week. Finally, the test came. He travelled to London for a meeting, met his friend and they went to his house for martinis. As we heard upon his return, this was made into an event and fortunately as David put it, he failed to identify the more expensive gin and from that day on, he made his martinis with the second shelf brand.

Dr. Bohr served many scientific societies including the Council for High Blood Pressure Research of the American Heart Association and the American Physiological Society. He served on the Hypertension Task Force for the National Institutes of Health from 1978–79. From 1965–68 he was a member of the Committee on Physiology of the National Board of Medical Examiners (1965–68) and he also served on the Cardiovascular Review Panel for the Space Science Board of the National Academy of Sciences (1968–72). As president of the American Physiological Society (1978–79), Dr. Bohr visited Cuban medical schools and observed Cuban health care, and promoted exchange of information between Cuban and American physiologists.

David Bohr took great pleasure in the game of tennis throughout his life. Family, friends and students enjoyed his ready sense of humour, his compassion, optimism and love of learning.

Dr. Bohr was preceded in death by his wife Kathleen (Katie) earlier this year. They were married in 1940 and were friends as teenagers. Dr. Bohr is survived by a son, John Nicholas Bohr, two daughters, Ann (Barbara) Bohr Benner and Louise Ann Bohr. Grandchildren are Thomas Bohr Benner of Brooklyn, New York and Jack Allen Benner, of Charlottesville.

The Editors

Anna F. Dominiczak

Division of Cardiovascular & Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Glasgow

R. Clinton Webb

Department of Physiplogy, Medical College of Georgia

Correspondence to Anna F. Dominiczak, BHF Glasgow Cardiovascular Research Centre, 126 University Place, GLASGOW, G12 8TA Tel: +44 0 141 330 2738 5420; fax: +44 0 141 330 5339

Uncited references



1 Montague D, Rosas R, Bohr DF. Bradykinin: Vascular relaxant, cardiac stimulant. Science 1963; 141:907–908.
2 Funaki S, Bohr DF. Electrical and mechanical activity of isolated vascular smooth muscle of the rat. Nature 1964; 203:192–194.
3 Filo RS, Bohr DF, Ruegg JC. Glycerinated skeletal and smooth muscle: Calcium and magnesium dependence. Science 1965; 147:1581–1583.
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