February 2010

Retrospective: Edwin G. Krebs (1918–2009)

My postdoctoral experience with Ed Krebs molded my scientific career. Ed was a very kind gentleman. He had a special knack for telling you that your ideas or interpretations were wrong in an unobjectionable way. He was careful to not overtly dictate any of his ideas to his scientific group, but he made suggestions and nourished his thoughts carefully in order to guide young scientists toward the right goals. Sometimes, I was proud to have a good idea, but I came to realize later on that the idea actually came from Ed. I remember just a few times that he was persistent in directing my research toward a specific direction, but, even then, he did it in a congenial manner, and he was practically always right.

Ed will be sorely missed in the scientific world, especially in the field of signal transduction. I miss my wonderful mentor and good friend. 

Jackie D. Corbin
Professor of molecular physiology and biophysics
Vanderbilt University Medical Center

***

For me, Ed was a hands-off adviser. He gave people tremendous freedom— there was certainly ample opportunity to sink or swim in his lab. Ed had a heavy journal editor role, so we did not see a lot of him in the laboratory, but every now and then he would drift in for coffee. The one time Ed came into the laboratory on a Saturday, we were so pleased to see him and be noticed for our diligence, but it came with an unexpected cost. He was there to centrifuge some terrible homemade wine, and we had to taste it in little glass beakers.

Between his hearing aid and my Australian accent, I am not sure he understood a thing I said for the first six months. When I first met Ed, I was struck by his being so low key and devoid of any “brilliant façade,” but then I came to realize that nothing but clear thinking and common sense ever parted from his lips. While somewhat remote, he was immensely likeable, someone whose value just kept growing on you.

His weekly laboratory meetings were of tremendous value and provided the real mentoring environment. Ed was keenly interested in politics and the U.S. economy. He was a strong critic of the infamous U.S. Sen. William Proxmire and his “Golden Fleece” awards. Perhaps the best illustration of his political interests was at a plenary lecture at a Gordon Conference, where he traced the development of the protein phosphorylation field over his long career and what was happening in politics in the U.S. at the time of each major scientific development.

We remember Ed with fondness and enduring thanks for the impact he had on science and our lives.

Bruce E. Kemp
Pehr Edman fellow in protein chemistry and metabolism
St. Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research

***

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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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