Dr. Ralph F. Hirschmann, Rao Makineni Professor of Bioorganic Chemistry in the School of Arts & Sciences, passed away June 20, 2009, at age 87.
Before coming to Penn in 1987, Dr. Hirschmann was senior vice president for basic research at Merck & Co., Inc., where he had worked since 1950. He also had a concurrent faculty appointment at the Medical University of South Carolina from 1987-1999.
Dr. Hirschmann contributed to organic, medicinal and bioorganic chemistry for over 50 years. His contributions included the first chemical synthesis in solution of an enzyme, ribonuclease, and the development of several important drugs, including the parasite-fighting Ivomec, used to combat river blindness in developing nations.
At Penn, Dr. Hirschmann initiated collaborative research in the field of peptidomimetics. He authored some 150 scientific papers and was named inventor or co-inventor on nearly 100 patents.
In 2007, Dr. Hirschmann was inducted into the American Chemical Society Hall of Fame. He received the presidential National Medal of Science from President Clinton in 2000 (Almanac November 21, 2000). The Hirschmann-Makineni Professorship in Chemistry was established by Rao Makineni in 1993 in Dr. Hirschmannís honor; he was the first holder of this endowed professorship and was named the Rao Makineni Term Professor in Chemistry in 2003 (Almanac May 13, 2003).
Born in Germany, Dr. Hirschmann earned an AB degree from Oberlin College in 1943. He obtained a PhD from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1950.
Dr. Hirschmann is survived by his wife, Lucy; daughter, Carla Hummel; son, Ralph; and six grandchildren.