Posted March 3, 1999
Alan Bearden, professor emeritus of neurobiology and biophysics in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, died Feb. 17 at Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley following a heart attack. He was 67.
A modern-day renaissance man, Bearden worked in biophysics, neurobiology, physics and chemistry and was also a published novelist, photojournalist, radiation expert, pianist, opera lover and car enthusiast.
"Alan will be remembered as a man with great zest for life," said Geoffrey Owen, professor of molecular and cell biology and Bearden's long-time colleague. "He was generous and fiercely loyal, both to his friends and to his ideals."
Born in Baltimore, Md. in 1931, Bearden earned a bachelor's degree in physics when he was only 19. Following graduation he took a commission in the U.S. Navy, spending four years on active duty and serving in the Korean War. Returning to Johns Hopkins, he earned his PhD in physics in 1958.
Before coming to Berkeley in 1969, Bearden taught physics at the University of Wisconsin and Cornell and chemistry at UC San Diego. At Berkeley, he served as chair of the Department of Biophysics and Medical Physics from 1979 to 1984 and, following a reorganization of campus's biological sciences, became a professor of neurobiology.
"Alan was not only a forward thinker, he was also an activist. He worked tirelessly to maintain the department's strength in the physical sciences while striving to broaden its focus to encompass the newest developments in biology," said Owen. "He understood that the divisions between physics and chemistry and biology are artificial ones. To him it was all one thing: science."
During his varied scientific career, Bearden researched the physics of X-ray and Mossbauer spectroscopy, protein structure and function, bioenergetics and the mechanisms of photosynthesis. His most significant scientific achievements were his measurement of the mass of the mu meson (muon), which helped establish its identity as a heavy electron; his pioneering use of Mossbauer spectroscopy; and his identification of the iron-sulfur proteins as the electron receptors in the photosynthetic reaction center.
"His research always addressed important questions and was characterized by a rare combination of care, rigor and elegance," Owen said.
Shortly before taking emeritus status in 1993, Bearden became interested in the processes by which information from our senses is transmitted to the brain. Along with then-graduate student Michael O'Neill, he invented LAMDA (Laser Amplified Motion Detection and Analysis), which permits the imaging of nanometer-scale structures.
Bearden's personal interests were no less varied than his career. A talented pianist and opera lover, he amassed a remarkable collection of audiotapes of live and broadcast music and of sounds that interested him, such as foghorns, steam trains and bagpipes.
Having once worked briefly as a photojournalist for Life magazine, he remained an avid photographer; when he traveled, his photo equipment often weighed more than his clothes. A prolific writer, he was at work on his third novel at the time of his death. A lifelong sports car enthusiast, he helped develop the Ford GT racing car and recently restored his beloved Austin Healey to "factory condition."
Bearden is survived by two sons, Roger Bearden of Chicago and Colin Bearden of Austin, TX.
A campus event in celebration of his life is being planned for March, on a date yet to be announced.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in Bearden's name may be sent to the UC Botanical Gardens or Cal Performances, UC Berkeley, 94720; or to the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, 333 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94105.
David Daube, a world-renowned Biblical law scholar who charmed generations of students while teaching at Boalt Hall, died Feb. 24 from pneumonia. He was 90. A Berkeley resident, Daube died at Oak Park Convalescent Hospital in Pleasant Hill.
He first came to Boalt Hall in 1970 and retired in 1994. Law students enjoyed his thoughtful and entertaining classroom lectures, while scholars hailed his important research on ethics and Roman, Biblical and Hebraic law.
"David was one of the greatest legal scholars in the world, and that is no exaggeration," said Professor Emeritus Robert Cole. "His Biblical interpretations are just stunningly creative and meticulously researched and carefully analyzed ... I don't think there's anyone else like him."
Daube was born in 1909 in Freiburg, Germany of an Orthodox Jewish family. He received his initial degrees from the University of Freiburg and the University of Gottingen in 1932. In 1933, knowing German, French, Latin, Ancient Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, but not English, he left for England to escape the Nazis. In 1936, he received a doctorate from Cambridge and, in 1955, a master's from Oxford. Many other degrees would follow.
In England, he was quickly recognized as a leader in the fields of Roman and Biblical law. From 1955-1970, he was a fellow at All Souls College at Oxford, and was royally appointed Regius Professor of Civil Law at Oxford.
Daube first became a visiting professor at Berkeley in the 1960s and joined the faculty in 1970. In a 1986 newspaper article in the Oakland Tribune, a law student described Daube's lectures as follows: "One of his key themes is that the ancients were as much sneaky liars, losers, failures, successes, generous, grand-iose, colorful people as we are today. Daube's class is about who we are today. And how do we know what we're like? By looking at the way we were 2,000 years ago."
Daube produced dozens of books and more than 150 articles -- on topics ranging from detective novels, which he traced to ancient times, to wine in the Bible and individual Biblical characters.
His vast circle of friends included international scholars and local bus drivers.
Daube is survived by his wife, Helen Smelser Daube; his children from a previous marriage -- Jonathan of Manchester, Connecticut; Benjamin of Toronto; and Michael of Perth, Australia; two stepchildren from his marriage to Helen -- Tina Smelser and Eric Smelser of San Francisco; and six grandchildren.
Funeral services were held March 1 at Congregation B'nai Tikvah in Walnut Creek. The law school is planning a memorial service for April.