Dr. Weber, Biochem & Biophysics

Dr. Annemarie Weber, professor emerita of biochemistry and biophysics, died July 5 at the age of 88. "She was a pioneering scientist and dedicated teacher who will be missed greatly," said Dr. Mark Lemmon, professor and chair of biochemistry/biophysics.

After completing her MD and DM degrees at the University of Tubingen in Germany in 1950, she received a Rockefeller postdoctoral fellowship to continue her training in biophysics at University College, London and in physical chemistry at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Weber accepted a position in neurology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and was subsequently named professor of biochemistry at St. Louis University Medical School. In 1972 Dr. Weber was recruited to the School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania as professor of biochemistry.

"Annemarie's scientific accomplishments were outstanding. In 1959 she established the first direct and complete evidence that calcium ions act as intracellular messengers. She also demonstrated that the sarcoplasmic reticulum of muscle is capable of lowering cytoplasmic calcium concentrations to levels consistent with muscle relaxation by virtue of its pumping activity. Annemarie played a pivotal role in establishing the overall principles of calcium action: the ion is maintained at very low free concentration in the cytoplasm, and a very minor rise in its concentration acts as the message to switch on either the contractile apparatus or other cellular activities. She played a central role in establishing that calcium, like cAMP, functions as a second messenger," explained Dr. Lemmon.

She was elected to the Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina; the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was a fellow by the Biophysical Society.

In 1985 she received the Berwick Award for her outstanding educational contributions. In 1998 she became emerita, but continued her mission—to teach medical students­—and received the Provost's Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2001. "She stood as an example of what it means to be an academic. Students repeatedly remarked on her sense of humor, her lively lectures, her dedication—and recognized her as a truly exceptional teacher." To quote one of her students: "She is extraordinarily successful at clarifying difficult concepts, integrating clinical correlations, and providing a big picture of biochemistry that facilitates active learning." In recognition of her extraordinary commitment to educating the next generation of physicians, she was presented on several occasions by the first year class with the "Outstanding Lecturer Award." "As a teacher and mentor she stood head and shoulders above the crowd; she raised the bar and transformed education at Penn Med. She was more than just a teacher in this school—she was an institution. In addition to her important scientific contributions, her legacy lives on with the multitude of Penn medical students who benefited from her teaching and generous mentoring," Dr. Lemmon added.