Robert A. Knudson

The MBL has learned of the recent death of Corporation member and longtime MBL employee Robert A. (Bob) Knudson who died on August 31, 2009 in Port Townsend, WA following a courageous battle with lung cancer. The MBL flag will be lowered in his memory.

Bob worked very closely with MBL Distinguished Scientist Dr. Shinya Inoué for nearly 50 years—first at Dartmouth Medical School and the University of Pennsylvania, and then at the MBL. Bob was an MBL employee from 1986 to 2003. He worked as a Research Associate and also ran the Instrument Development Laboratory, developing specialized tools and equipment for Dr. Inoué and collaborators. He continued to consult with the MBL’s Architectural Dynamics in Living Cells Program until his death.

“Bob so loved MBL and his work here,“ says Dr. Inoué. “He’d spend two weeks on each trip rejuvenating our one-of-a-kind microscopes, and (together with his son Corey) to even generate a complete inventory of the equipment and supplies in our program.”

Dr. Inoué wrote the following in a eulogy that was read by Bob’s minister at a memorial service in Port Townsend on September 6:

“Each time the living cell would call for a new microscope, or a microscope component, so that I, my colleagues and students could better see how its molecules behaved: to generate two new cells; to build up swimming embryos; or to tell how to respond to stimuli, Bob and I would sketch out ideas on the back of an envelope, then erase and start all over, again and again, until we agreed on a likely device for tracking the cell behavior. Once he transformed the rough sketches into mechanical drawings, we would examine: how the new component balanced with the rest of the microscope; what material he needed to use for each small part; and the precision to which each part had to be finished. He would then disappear into his instrument development lab for a week, a month, or several months, and finally emerge with the brand new component or whole microscope, that let us explore the living cell’s hidden mysteries. And the outcome of all of this? No fewer than three generations of the World’s most powerful polarizing microscopes.”

Bob is survived by his wife, Cynthia, and children Heather, Corey, Harlan, and Janna.