February 2010

Retrospective: Edwin G. Krebs (1918–2009)

I enjoyed working with Ed Krebs for five years as an associate editor of JBC. I had known him when he was a faculty member of the department of biochemistry at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, but I saw him in a new role with JBC. He always had good advice in matters we considered at our associate editor meetings.

Robert L. Hill
James B. Duke professor of biochemistry
Duke University

***

Ed Krebs and Ed Fischer were two icons in the field of reversible phosphorylation. When my laboratory group started its work on protein phosphatases, they were both very welcoming to me and to members of my group. Their personalities made the field better, and they set the standard for exemplary scientific behavior. I also had the privilege of giving the Ed Krebs Lecture a few years ago, an event I still remember very fondly and treasure to this day.

Jack Dixon
Professor of pharmacology, cellular and molecular medicine and professor of chemistry and biochemistry
University of California, San Diego

***

I was so sad to hear of the passing of Ed Krebs. He was one of the true gentlemen in science. I owe any success that I have had to his willingness to take on a young and very naïve scientist from Wyoming as a postdoctoral fellow. His lab was a place where you could propose and pursue your own projects under his subtle, but always insightful, guidance. I remember once returning from an interview for a faculty position that I was not offered, probably due in part to my inherent laconic personality. Ed gently pulled me aside, put his arm around my shoulders and said, “Bob, the next time you go on a job interview, take some amphetamines.” 

Robert Geahlen
Professor of medicinal chemistry and molecular pharmacology
Purdue University

***

My fondest memories of Ed involved our annual laboratory research retreats. These were held over a couple of days and nights in a place called Pack Forest, a conference center that was owned by the University of Washington’s School of Forest Resources. It was not the Hilton. It was a former logging camp, where you slept in bunkhouses, showered in a communal bathhouse, gave your research presentations in a big log cabin heated by a stone fireplace and ate hearty food in a rustic cafeteria. Away from the office, the phone, etc., Ed doffed his coat and tie and donned his jeans and flannel shirt. He joined us for hikes, softball (he broke his hand one year) and Frisbee. There, he’d let his guard down a little and share stories about life. The one that sticks in my mind was the awkward moment when he arrived in Seattle to start work at the UW in the late ’40s. There, he was greeted by several reporters wishing to get the first interview with the son of Sir Hans Krebs...

When I arrived as a postdoc in Seattle, I was thoroughly intimidated by this great man. Even the most innocuous conversations were awkward as I tried to get to know him. Then, one evening when the lab was quiet, I was just finishing a cartoon I had drawn that depicted one of my fellow postdocs, Don Tinker, dressed in a tutu, wielding a magic wand. Ed walked past me on his way out. Behind me, I heard him softly repeat the words of the caption— “Tinker Bell”— followed by a quiet chuckle. I had discovered Ed’s dry but wicked sense of humor.

Peter Kennelly
Professor and head of biochemistry
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

***

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COMMENTS:

I performed 2 years of post doctoral research on rabbit heart phosphorylase under Doctor Krebs. I still feel that I am a student learning of new advances in biochemistry from him. I was deeply moved and saddened to read of his passing. Louis Schliselfeld

 

I was deeply moved by the passing of Ed Krebs. John Scott captured what we all who knew him feel at his passing. Like many, we learned of his great joy of science and boundless ability to encourage the best science through his role as an editor. Later, at meetings of the editorial board of The JBC, I was able truly to appreciate his insights and to value his advice to me concerning my career path. Few will be as sorely missed as Ed Krebs. He left a legacy that we both admire and should try to emulate in some modest way. Craig C. Malbon Leading Professor and Director, DMDRC Department of Pharmacology SUNY-Stony Brook

 

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