Oct. 7, 1999
Vol. 19 No. 2

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    Michael Danos, physicist, Visiting Scholar at University

    Michael Danos, a Latvian World War II refugee who achieved distinction as an influential theoretical physicist and inventor of medical imaging devices, died Monday, Aug. 30, at Georgetown Hospital in Washington, D.C.

    He was 77.

    Danos, a Visiting Scholar at Chicago since 1990, spent most of his career as a physicist at the National Institute of Standards in Washington, D.C.

    Danos died following a stroke, said his wife, Sheila Fitzpatrick, Chicago’s Bernadotte Schmidt Distinguished Service Professor in Modern Russian History.

    During the 1950s and 1960s, Danos conducted classic work in the field of photonuclear physics.

    His contributions to this field were important in the development of the billion-dollar heavy-ion collider being commissioned at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, N.Y.

    Danos officially retired from NIST in 1994, but he remained active both in theoretical physics at the University and as a founder of the Rayex Co. of Gaithersburg, Md., where he was developing high-power X-ray tubes for medical imaging and industrial radiology.

    Anna Wiedmann, psychology student

    Anna T. Wiedmann, a student in the College, died Sept. 29 in Chicago. Wiedmann made the Dean’s list last year and began her second year in the College with a concentration in psychology.

    She is survived by her parents, Mike and Sue Wiedmann, of Story City, Iowa.

    Because an untimely death may be disruptive to students’ emotional well-being, Katie Nash, Dean of Students in the College, encouraged students in need to contact available campus resources, including the Student Counseling & Resource Service, campus ministries, the residence hall staff and College advisers.

    Radovan Zak, Professor in three departments

    Radovan Zak (Ph.D., ’68), a pioneer in the study of heart and skeletal muscle, died Sept. 21 at the University of Chicago Hospitals. Zak had been treated for several years for heart disease and died from a thrombosis that occurred after a surgical procedure.

    Zak was a Professor in Medicine; Neurobiology, Pharmacology & Physiology; and Organismal Biology & Anatomy. He was also a member of the Committee on Cell Physiology.

    Zak was a leading authority on the biology and biochemistry of contractile proteins, the building blocks of heart and skeletal muscle. He studied the factors that control muscle-cell growth and differentiation and the genes that code for muscle proteins. His laboratory discovered two of the eight genes responsible for the different forms of myosin, one of the most important components of heart and skeletal muscle. His research was particularly important in helping cardiologists understand the abnormal growth and thickening of the heart wall that can occur in response to elevated blood pressure or partial blockage of the aorta.

    “Professor Zak was a brilliant scientist, a mentor and teacher of the first rank who nurtured generations of students, and a wonderful, gentle man,” recalled Morton Arnsdorf, Professor in Medicine.

    “He was among a core of basic and clinical scientists who brought basic laboratory research to the bedside, making the University’s Cardiology Section a powerful national and international force in investigating heart disease. Despite his respected position and busy schedule, he was a modest man and always had time to teach, to listen and to help other scientists deal with important problems.”

    Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, on June 15, 1931, Zak earned a B.S. degree in chemistry and physics from Prague University in 1952 and an R.N. Dr. in biochemistry in 1954. He taught chemistry at the Prague University Medical School and later taught physiology at the Czechoslovakia Academy of Science, while he completed his Ph.D. in biochemistry there.

    He came to the United States in 1961 as a research fellow at Northwestern University Medical School, then in 1963, began a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Professor Murray Rabinowitz at Chicago, where he developed his interest in the molecular biology of contractile proteins. He joined the University faculty in 1965 as an Instructor, set up his own laboratory and became a full Professor in 1978. He won the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 1989 and the Gold Key, which recognizes faculty for loyal and outstanding service, in June 1999.

    He is survived by his wife, Emilia, of Chicago; two sons, Joseph of Santiago, Chile, and Patrick of Oakland, Calif.; and one grandson, Patrick’s son, Nicholas.

    A memorial service is being arranged to take place in January at the University’s Bond Chapel.