Dr. Higgins, Biophysicist

Dr. Joseph J. Higgins, associate professor of biochemistry and biophysics in the School of Medicine died of liver complications on May 6. He was 65.

Dr. Higgins taught and did research at Penn for more than 35 years, contributing some of the pioneering work in the use of complex mathematical approaches to solve theoretical problems of biochemistry and biophysics. In 1959, he developed an electronic analog computer (later replaced by digital computers) to advance the study of enzymes. With these tools, he studied enzyme kinetics, complex enzymatic reactions, metabolic regulation and control, and oscillating chemical and biochemical reactions.

Dr. Higgins grew up in Kingsessing, graduated from Northeast High School, and lived in West Philadelphia at the time of his death. He earned two degrees in physics at Penn: a bachelor's in 1954 (with a minor in math) and a doctorate in 1959. He also received a master's in physics from Harvard in 1955.

During his undergraduate years, he was an electronic technician at the Johnson Foundation, and a research fellow there while he was a graduate student. From 1959-1961 he was a postdoctoral fellow at the University Libre de Brussels, University of Copenhagen and University of Uppsala.

Dr. Higgins returned to Penn as an associate in biophysics in 1961. He was assistant professor of biophysics, 1963-67; associate professor of biophysics, 1967-75, biophysics graduate group chair, 1968-73; and associate professor of biochemistry and biophysics from 1975 until the time of his death. From 1975-80, he was also on the science staff of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Dr. Higgins is survived by his wife, Eva Christensen Higgins; a son, Joseph J.; four daughters, Janice Duffy, Kathy Pedersen, Deirdre Tullis and Jennifer Yamnitsky; his mother, Clara Higgins; two sisters and 15 grandchildren.

Dr. Porter, Cell Biologist

Dr. Keith R. Porter, a pioneer of cell biology who was a research professor of biology here, died on May 9 of pneumonia, due to complications of Parkinson's disease. He was 84.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Porter won a number of major awards for his work, including the Horwitz Prize in 1970, the National Medal of Science in 1977, and the American Society of Cell Biology's E.B. Wilson Award in 1981.

In 1945, Dr. Porter, along with his colleagues at Rockefeller Institute (now University), Nobelist Albert Claude and Ernest Fullam, published the first electron micrograph of an intact cell in The Journal of Experimental Medicine. Dr. Porter grew embryonic chick cells on polyvinyl film, peeled them off and put them on a wire grid, and fixed them with a chemical to keep them from evaporating in the electron microscope's vacuum chamber. The photographs, taken by using subatomic electrons, showed 1,000 times more detail than those using light. The techniques the researchers used are essentially the same as present-day electron microscopy methods.

Dr. Porter received his bachelor's degree from Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and his master's and doctorate in biology from Harvard. He did research at Rockefeller from 1939 to 1961, when he left to head Harvard's biology department. He went to the University of Colorado in 1968, the University of Maryland in Baltimore in 1984, and was at Penn from 1988 to 1995.

Dr. Porter was predeceased by his wife Elizabeth Lindling Porter and their son.


Volume 43 Number 34
May 13, 1997

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