Werner R. Loewenstein


Photo credit: Lynne Woodward

The MBL flag will be lowered in memory of MBL Emeritus Society member and long-time visiting investigator Dr. Werner R. Loewenstein of Sedona, AZ and Falmouth, MA who died on November 17, 2014, in Sedona at the age of 88.

Dr. Loewenstein started coming to the MBL as a visiting investigator in the mid-1950s and continued as a visiting researcher until 1994 when he moved full-time to the MBL to serve as a Senior Investigator, a position he held until 1999. At this time he also re-located the editorial office of the Journal of Membrane Biology to the MBL. Dr. Loewenstein founded and was Editor-in-Chief of the publication.

Dr. Loewenstein was a familiar figure, easily recognized by the black beret he always wore and a ready, warm smile. He was born in 1926 in Spangenberg, Germany. His family escaped Hitler’s Germany in 1939, emigrating to Chile. He had a keen interest in science and became a world-renowned biophysicist after immigrating into the United States.

Dr. Loewenstein received a B.Sc. (physics), B.Sc. (biology) in 1945, and Ph.D. (physiology) in 1950 from the University of Chile. From 1951 to 1957 he worked at the University of Chile, first as an instructor, and then as an associate professor of physiology. In 1954 he joined the University of California in Los Angeles as a resident zoologist. In 1957 Dr. Loewenstein was a professor of physiology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University and from 1967 to 1971 he served as the Director of the Laboratory of Cell Physics. He moved to Florida in 1971 to take a position as professor of physiology and biophysics and department chairman at the University of Miami School of Medicine.

In 1994 Dr. Loewenstein and his wife, Dr. Birgit Rose Loewenstein, established the Laboratory of Cell Communication at the MBL, devoted to the study of intercellular communication. Their research focused on the cell-to-cell channel, a membrane channel built into the junctions between cells. Dr. Loewenstein became a member of the MBL Corporation in 1961 and served on the MBL Investment Committee in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was named a MBL Society Emeritus member in 2011.

His recent book, Physics in Mind, was chosen by Physics World Magazine as the 2013 Best Book of Physics. Dr. Loewenstein traveled the world as an invited speaker at international scientific conferences, and loved to take sailing trips on his cutter Pequod. He is survived by his wife of 43 years, Birgit Rose Loewenstein of Sedona, son Stewart of Denver, daughter Claudia of Dallas, and four grandchildren.

Donations in memory of Werner Loewenstein can be made to Oyster Pond Environmental Trust, P.O. Box 496, Woods Hole, MA 02543 or to Keep Sedona Beautiful, 360 Brewer Rd, Sedona, AZ 86336