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Annemarie Weber

Annemarie Weber (1923 - 2012)

Dr. Annemarie Weber, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Biophysics, passed away July 5. She was a pioneering scientist and dedicated teacher who will be missed greatly.

Dr. Weber was the daughter of the German Physiologist Hans H. Weber. After completing her M.D. and D.M. degrees at the University of Tubingen in Germany in 1950, she received a Rockefeller postdoctoral fellowship to continue her training in the Department of Biophysics at University College, London and in the Department of Physical Chemistry at Harvard Medical School. 

Annemarie accepted a position in the Department of 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. In recognition of her scientific contributions, Annemarie 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 recognized as a fellow by the Biophysical Society

In addition to being an outstanding scientist, Dr. Weber was an exceptional educator. She developed a biochemistry course for our first year medical students that is unparalleled. One of her students remarked, “...the biochemistry course at Penn is the envy of medical schools around the country”.  Annemarie approached curriculum development as she did research – by asking “What are the important facts and concepts that are essential for a clinician?”  Because of her insight and her unmatched level of commitment, she created a course that was ranked by both the medical students and the faculty as one of the best basic science courses in Penn Med.  

Annemarie was a perfectionist. To ensure that the material was appropriately covered and intelligently presented, she gave all of the lectures; a Herculean task unmatched by any other course in the medical school. In 1985, she received the Berwick Award, recognizing her outstanding educational contributions. In 1998, Annemarie passed from the standing faculty to emerita, but continued her educational mission – tireless in her efforts to teach medical students – and received the University’s Provost 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 the words of one of Annemarie’s 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, Annemarie 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. 
Annemarie was more than just a teacher in this medical 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.

READ MORE ABOUT ANNEMARIE:

Retrospective by Clara Franzini-Armstrong in ASBMB Today (scroll to page 16)

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