In memoriam

Frank and Mary Loewus

Frank and Mary Loewus

Frank A. Loewus, 94, and his wife, Mary W. Loewus, 91, passed away on Jan. 21 and March 12, respectively, in Pullman, Wash. The couple had a lifelong and fruitful scientific collaboration that allowed them to publish groundbreaking work on the biosynthesis of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) in plants and the discovery of myo-inositol as a metabolic precursor in plants.

Frank was born on Oct. 22, 1919, in Duluth, Minn. He earned his B.S. in forestry at the University of Minnesota in 1942. Then he served in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a first lieutenant and as an intelligence officer in the Philippines and Japan during World War II. After his honorable discharge in 1946, he continued his education at Minnesota, where he earned an M.S. in 1950 and a Ph.D. in 1952 while working for David Briggs on the chemistry of amylose retrogradation.

Mary was born Feb. 15, 1923, in Duluth. She earned a B.S. in 1945 and an M.S. in 1950 from the University of Minnesota. It was there that she met Frank. The couple wed in 1947. Mary earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1953.

After completing his doctoral studies, Frank worked from 1952 to 1955 at the University of Chicago in the Birgit Vennesland and Frank Westheimer lab, where the research focused on the discovery of NAD/NADH and their functions.

The couple then headed off to California together. Frank joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture Western Regional Research Laboratory in Albany, Calif., and worked there until 1964, while Mary worked at the University of California at Berkeley. Following that, both joined the State University of New York in Buffalo, where Frank was a professor and Mary was a research associate in the department of biology from 1965 to 1975.

In 1975, Frank was elected president of the Phytochemical Society of North America, and the couple moved to Washington State University, where they stayed through 1990, when they both retired.

The Loewuses’ contributions are recognized and remembered with travel awards given annually to student members of the PSNA. Frank in 1993 received the Charles Reid Barnes Life Membership award from the American Society of Plant Physiologists and in 2007 the PSNA Phytochemistry Pioneer Award.

Solomon Shankman

Solomon Shankman, a chemist, the founder of Shankman Laboratories in Los Angeles and an avid hiker, passed away Aug. 1, just shy of his 99th birthday.

Shankman was born in Toronto on Aug. 27, 1915. He earned a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1939 from the University of Toronto. That same year, he moved to Los Angeles to work for William T. Thompson Vitamin Company.

In 1946, he opened Shankman Laboratories to offer services analyzing food and vitamin products. Among his most significant scientific contributions are the invention of a method to analyze amino acids in 1952 and the development of the techniques for lyophilization of foods. As an employer, Shankman was considered ahead of his time, providing his employees with medical insurance, maternity leave and the ability to influence company decision-making in the 1950s. A friend who spent time reading to Shankman, who was legally blind in his later years, told the Los Angeles Times that Shankman “was always on the side of the downtrodden, the worker, the oppressed.”

Some put the number of miles Shankman hiked, since he took up the pastime the late 1970s, at 35,000, but friends report that Shankman himself estimated it was more like 42,000. Regardless of the exact number, Shankman hiked the vast majority of them in Griffith Park during his daily walks at the crack of dawn for 35 years until he was 95. “The King of the Park,” as he was known, met hundreds of people, made lots of friends and organized an annual party for dog walkers. He also was active in the community, working for the Grandfather Gardening program at Logan Street School, volunteering at the Braille Institute and contributing to the fundraising efforts of United Cerebral Palsy.

Shankman spent 43 years married to Elizabeth Stern, a renowned cancer researcher from the University of California, Los Angeles, who established for the first time a link between herpes virus and cervical cancer and showed that the prolonged use of oral contraceptive pills was associated with cervical dysplasia. Shankman took up walking when Stern passed away.

Another friend told the Los Angeles Times: “He thirsted for new ideas. He dared to have his perceptions challenged. At an age when most people think they have it all figured out, Sol was still asking questions. He was still growing.” To read more about Shankman’s walking adventures, visit

Mariana Figuera Mariana Figuera ( fmariana is is a postdoctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins University.