October 21, 2014

Benjamin Kaminer

Dr. Benjamin Kaminer of Woods Hole and a MBL Corporation Member died on December 13 of cancer at age 80. He was the husband of Freda (Shnitke) Kaminer to whom he was married for 55 years. Born in Slonim, Poland, his family emigrated to South Africa when he was six. In 1946 he received his medical degree from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He completed a Diploma in Child Health at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in London, where he then practiced pediatrics and was a research associate.

On returning to South Africa temporarily, he served as a senior lecturer and administrator in the Department of Physiology at the Medical School of the University of Witwatersrand and was a dean of the residence for African medical students. His interests led him to heart muscle research at that time. Because of their strong opposition to the existing apartheid government of South Africa, the Kaminers continued to feel that they could not remain on there.

Through a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship, Dr. Kaminer, accompanied by his wife and children, came to Woods Hole in 1959 to work with Dr. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi at the Institute for Muscle Research at the Marine Biological Laboratory. He continued on there for the next ten years as a year round independent investigator. His interests in the biochemistry and biophysics of muscle contraction meshed well with those emerging at the MBL. After moving to the Boston area, his involvement with the MBL continued. Returning each summer as an investigator, he studied calcium-regulated processes in the sea urchin for a number of years. He had been chairman of the MBL’s Instruction Committee, and served on the MBL Executive Committee and Board of Trustees. He also served on the Board of Trustees of the Mountain Foundation Fellowship and the William Townsend Porter Foundation and was a long-standing chairman of the Scholarship Committee of the Society of General Physiologists. His wide-ranging research through five decades led to many publications in international scientific journals.

After leaving the MBL as a year round investigator, Dr. Kaminer took a position as a lecturer in the Department of Anatomy at Harvard Medical School and in 1970 was appointed chairman of the Physiology Department at Boston University School of Medicine. He was committed to building and maintaining a strong teaching and research faculty and had a very special dedication towards the education and development of his students. His teaching skills were widely recognized by his many students over the years and he was the recipient of teaching awards from the university. His research at BU focused on the calcium regulatory mechanism in striated and smooth muscle. He served as chairman for thirty years until his retirement in 2000, returning to Woods Hole year round.

In addition to his wife Freda, he leaves a son, Brian Kaminer of Woods Hole and a daughter, Lauren Kaminer of Falmouth. The family has established a MBL scholarship in Dr. Kaminer’s name.

The family will be holding a remembrance service on Tuesday, August 3 at 2 pm in the Meigs room at the MBL’s Swope Center.