Schmidt Memorial Lecture


Gerhard Schmidt in his laboratory at Tufts

The Gerhard Schmidt Memorial Lecture is sponsored by our department in memory of Dr Schmidt, a great scientist and a great humanist. A man of charm and charisma, a noted researcher and a devoted educator, he combined brilliance, humor, idealism and apparent simplicity in an extraordinary way.

Professionally known for his work in nucleic acid and phospholipid metabolism, he was as deeply involved in areas as diverse as chamber music and literature. His love of a chamber music style in which virtuosity was subordinate to collaboration mirrored his scientific ideals in which the love of learning was everything and politics and glory played no role. His lectures combined warmth, clarity and intense love of his subject, with occasional quotes from Shakespeare or Goethe.

The turbulence of Europe in the 1930's led to him coming to America, but already in 1928 he had written a classic paper describing enzymatic processes of deamination. He joined the Tufts faculty in 1940 and, soon after his arrival, made a most important contribution to the development of nucleic acid metabolism, describing a quantitative method for determination of DNA and RNA in tissues. The simplicity and reliability of this method played an important role in early research in molecular biology. Dr. Schmidt pioneered work on enzymes involved in nucleic acid degradation. He was a world authority in the field of nucleic acids and phospholipids.

In 1973, the same year in which he was named professor emeritus at Tufts, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Although in poor health in later years, he worked regularly at his laboratory almost until his death on April 24, 1981.

A final tribute to a life of devotion to science and to humanism is the establishment of the Gerhard Schmidt Memorial Lectureship at Tufts, a memorial that embodies so many of his beliefs and ideals.

Contributions to this memorial to insure its continuation will be gratefully accepted at the Department of Developmental, Molecular & Chemical Biology, Tufts University School of Medicine, 136 Harrison Avenue, Boston, MA 02111.

Lectures are typically held on an annual basis.