Dr. Kleinzeller of Physiology: Scholar and Survivor

Dr. Arnost Kleinzeller, an internationally known scientist who was professor emeritus of physiology in the School of Medicine, died on February 1 at the age of 82.

Dr. Kleinzeller was not only a distinguished physiologist and biochemist, but also "a gifted alchemist who transmuted savage adversity into opportunities for growth, insights, and productivity," as a member of his family put it.

His scientific work dealt primarily with how the cells of the kidney and other epithelial cells regulate their contents of water and salts, and how these cells move sugars from one side of the tissue to the other.

He was author of more than 150 scientific papers and several monographs, and edited numerous scientific series. Possibly his most notable observation was that blocking a major mechanism for extruding salt (the sodium pump) did not cause rapid swelling of renal cells. This observation contradicted the dogma of the time, delaying appearance of his report in the respected Journal of Physiology.

Arnost Kleinzeller was born December 6, 1914, at Ostrava, Czechoslovakia, close to the borders with Germany and Poland. He enrolled as a medical student at the Masaryk University of Brno but having determined upon an academic biomedical career took an original approach to the curriculum of the time: anticipating elements of the Curriculum 2000 currently under development at PennMed, he fashioned his own course of study, undertaking 60-70 hours of coursework at the medical school and university as he attended laboratory sessions at the medical school and also entered into research life at the laboratories of a few sympathetic scientists.

Despite neglecting those lectures at the medical school he deemed unhelpful, his family recalls, he both graduated first in his class and published his first scientific report in 1938.

With the medical degree in hand and a Ph.D. almost in his grasp, his meticulously laid plans were swept away by the winds of war. After the signing of the Munich pact, the young Dr. Kleinzeller was instructed by the Cancer Institute not to return to his laboratory. He and his brother managed to flee to England through Poland, just before the advance of the German armies. His parents were less successful. His father transiently escaped to Belgium but perished in a German death camp. His mother was subjected to the horrors of Theresienstadt, but survived the Holocaust.

Arriving in England with limited command of English, few contacts and little supportand in the uncomfortable position of an enemy alien, due to his Austrian birth certificateDr. Klein-zeller characteristically made the most of the opportunities available. Within two and a half years after his arrival, he had defended his Ph.D. thesis based on work under the Nobel laureate Professor Hans Krebs, then at Sheffield, and then moved on to Cambridge postdoctoral work. Because of his academic successes, he was asked in 1944 by the Government-in-Exile to arrange health care for the newly liberated areas of Czechoslovakia. He returned to his native country with enthusiasm, but under the now-Communist regime he encountered not only continued anti-Semitism but a growing xenophobia toward those like himself who had been "tainted by the West." Despite periodic demotions and transfers for whimsical political reasons, he managed to convene an international meeting on biological fluid and solute transfer in Prague in August, 1960.

The congress identified and brought together the most distinguished scientists from the international community to address the newly emerging issues of a young scientific discipline, "at a time and in a place where little science was underway," a colleague recalls, and reports published from the meeting played a major role in guiding research in this discipline over the next two decades.

He and his wife Lotte escaped to the West, finding temporary refuge with Professor Aser Rothstein in Rochester, and then a position in the department of physiology at the University of Pennsylvania, where he continued his scientific activities for the remaining 30 years of his life.

At Penn he established the collaboratively-edited scientific series "Current Topics in Membranes and Transport" with Academic Press, made annual working visits to the Mt. Desert Marine Biological Laboratory in Maine, and retained strong contacts with colleagues in Europe. Among other honors, he was elected to the prestigious Academia Leopolina, and to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

Dr. Kleinzeller's experiences under totalitarian regimes led him to campaign for international scientific freedom as a member of the Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His experiences in forging his own curriculum in the highly ordered academic environment of Czechoslovakia between the world wars, and his later participation in imaginative eduational enterprises in England left him with a strong commitment to strengthening graduate biomedical eduction. Tested by lung cancer in 1977, bladder cancer a decade later, cardiac arrest in Mexico and a near-fatal cranial neuritis in 1993, Dr. Klein-zeller suffered a recurrence of lung cancer in 1995. Until the last weeks of his life he continued to write scholarly articles. He also organized a small cadre of colleagues to examine whether theses currently submitted for the Ph.D. degree are sufficiently broad in scope to meet what should be the standard of scholarship at the University of Pennsylvania.

He was also active as coordinator, with Dr. Zoltan Domotor, of the converzazione that members once tried calling the Informal Interdisciplinary Research Group in the Foundations and Methods of Biological Sciencesbut which became better known as the Schmoozers. At Almanac's invitation Dr. Kleinzeller and Dr. Domotor wrote a Benchmarks essay called "Schmoozing: Interaction Beyond the Bounds of Academic Disciplines" which appeared on the back page of the September 10, 1996 issue.

Dr. Kleinzeller is survived by his wife and companion of 53 years, Lotte Reuter Kleinzeller; two daughters, Anna Romancov of Prague and Jana Richman of Forest Hills, NY; and three grandsons.

based on contributions of family and colleagues of Dr. Kleinzeller

Frank Ross, Photographer

Samuel "Frank" Ross, a widely known photographer whose pictures of the University of Pennsylvania account for some 20 years of its visual history, died on February 1 at the age of 85. His photographs of Penn remain in the University Archives, where he donated his University-related files on retiring in the early 1980s.

Mr. Ross had made his national and international reputation on the Saturday Evening Post from 1945 until 1960. But when the magazine moved to New York City, Frank Ross elected to stay in Philadelphia, where he had begun his career in 1927 as an errand boy for the old Philadelphia Ledger and shot for the Philadelphia Daily News and The Inquirer.

Among his photographs were the first nuclear submarine under the Arctic ice pack and experimental rocket launches in White Sands. Stationed in Japan during the Korean War, he was later imprisoned in Cuba in the 1950s, but still managed to pass his film to a Pan Am pilot, who delivered it to New York so that his photographs were published in the Saturday Evening Post the following week.

Mr. Ross is survived by his son, Charles F.; his daughter; Joanne Collins; a sister; six grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Death of Dr. Koelle

At the end of the week, Almanac learned of the death of Dr. George Koelle, the distinguished professor of pharmacology whose work with enzymes changed the field of pharmacology and its stature as a discipline.

Dr. Koelle was 78, and and it is believed that his death was caused by a pulmonary embolism. He is survived by his wife, Dr. Winifred Jean Angenent Koelle, sons Peter, William and Jonathan, two granddaughters and a brother.

Information on his career and contributions will be published next week.


Volume 43 Number 21
February 11, 1997

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