Edgar E. Haber
Cardiovascular medicine lost a major leader, scientist, and teacher when Dr Edgar Haber died on October 13, 1997. The cause of death was multiple myeloma. He was 65 years old.
Dr Edgar Haber’s contributions to cardiovascular medicine, in particular to hypertension research, were numerous and impressive. His research elucidated the fundamental mechanisms of cardiovascular disease and paved the way for modern diagnostics and therapeutics for hypertension, myocardial ischemia, and digoxin toxicity. Dr Haber was the first to develop antibody to angiotensin and designed the first radioimmunoassay for renin activity. His team purified human and canine renins and developed renin antibodies which permitted the conclusive demonstration of renin’s role in blood pressure regulation. He was responsible for the first synthesis of renin inhibitor and its application in human investigation. Dr Haber developed digoxin antibody and invented a radioimmunoassay, both of which have been useful in the monitoring of digoxin therapy and for the diagnosis of digoxin toxicity. Using the digoxin Fab fragment, he and his colleagues developed Digibind as a therapeutic tool for treating digoxin toxicity. Dr Haber utilized immunological techniques for other cardiovascular applications, including cardiovascular imaging, such as the use of antimyosin antibody for the detection of myocardial necrosis and the development of antibodies to fibrin and tissue plasminogen activator for targeted thrombolytic therapy. He was a pioneer in molecular and cellular cardiology. Recently, he and his colleagues elucidated the genetic basis for atherosclerosis and vascular injury.
Dr Edgar Haber was born in Berlin, Germany. He earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from Columbia University. After an internship and first-year residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital, he joined the National Institutes of Health as a Research Associate in the laboratory of Dr Christian Anfinsen from 1958 through 1961. His research established that the three-dimensional structure of the enzyme ribonuclease is governed by the information in the amino acid sequence. This work laid the foundation for the understanding of the importance of the linear sequence of bases in a gene in determining a protein’s three-dimensional structure, for which Dr Anfinsen was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1972. Dr Haber received clinical training in cardiology at St George’s Hospital in London and returned to the Massachusetts General Hospital where he assumed the position of Chief of the Cardiac Unit 1 year later. During two decades, he built a world-renowned unit that was noted not only for its research accomplishments and clinical care quality but also for training many of today’s leaders in cardiology. In 1988, he became President of the Squibb Institute for Medical Research and subsequently President of the Bristol Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute (1990 to 1991). On returning to Boston in 1991, Dr Haber joined the faculty of the Harvard School of Public Health as the Elkan R. Blout Professor of Biological Sciences, Director of the Division of Biological Sciences, and Director for the Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease. He was also Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Sen-ior Physician at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Dr Haber’s academic honors were numerous and impressive, including the University Medal for Excellence from Columbia University, the Special Citation for Distinguished Service to Research from the American Heart Association, the Otsuka Award for outstanding research from the International Society for Heart Research, the Research Achievement Award of the American Heart Association, the Distinguished Scientist Award of the American College of Cardiology, and the Joseph Mather Smith Prize from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University. Dr Haber was a fellow of the American Academy of the Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. He received many recognitions for his significant contributions to hypertension research. These include the Franz Volhard Award from the International Society of Hypertension; the Arthur Corcoran Lectureship and the CIBA Award for Hypertension Research of the Council for High Blood Pressure Research of the American Heart Association.
Dr Haber served on many important committees and editorial boards, including Chairman of the Research Committee of the American Heart Association, Vice President (Research) of the American Heart Association, Chairman of the CIBA Award Committee of the Council for High Blood Pressure Research, and Member of the Albert Lasker Medical Research Awards Jury; he served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Circulation, New England Journal of Medicine, and Circulation Research. From 1984 through 1988, he was Editor-in-Chief of this journal, Hypertension.
In addition to his contributions to medicine and biomedical research, Dr Haber served as a role model for generations of young investigators. He always sought to solve the most difficult of scientific problems, and he persisted until he found solutions. He brought the same intensity to all aspects of life, and in doing so at times he appeared larger than life. He enjoyed and appreciated art in all its forms. For example, his knowledge of viticulture humbled many experts. He was devoted to his family and sought to treat his students as members of his extended family.
Ars longa vita brevis. Dr Haber’s life was too brief. His accomplishments were enormous. He will be missed.
(Editor’s Note. Both Drs Dzau and Ré trained under Dr Haber at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr Victor J. Dzau, Hersey Professor of the Theory and Practice of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School and Chairman of the Department of Medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital served as an Associate Editor while Dr Haber was Editor-in-Chief of Hypertension. Dr Ré is currently Vice President for Research at the Alton Ochsner Medical Foundation and currently is Associate Editor of Hypertension. The hypertension community joins with them in mourning this major leader in the field of hypertension and former editor of our journal.)