In Memoriam: Former Yale Professor Franklin Epstein, Was a Noted Nephrologist

Dr. Franklin H. Epstein, a former Yale professor known worldwide for his accomplishments in nephrology, died on Nov. 5. He was 84 years old.

A 1947 graduate of the Yale School of Medicine, Epstein completed his residency at Yale-New Haven Hospital, where he came under the influence of Dr. John P. Peters, the leading American physician and scientist at the time studying the pathophysiology of water and electrolytes in human disease. Epstein succeeded Peters as chief of the Division of Metabolism at Yale.

Epstein’s research encompassed the physiology of the renal medulla; disorders of urinary concentrating ability; mechanisms of acute renal failure; disorders of water, sodium and potassium; the movement of ions across marine epithelia; and medical complications of pregnancy, including preeclampsia. He also wrote and spoke extensively about the physician’s role in caring for the dying patient.

Epstein received many national and international honors for his work in nephrology, including the John P. Peters Award of the American Society of Nephrology in 1985, the David Hume Award of the National Kidney Foundation in 2003, the Bywaters Award from the International Society of Nephrology, and honorary degrees from Oxford University and the Medical Academy of Gdansk, Poland.

Epstein went to Boston in 1972 to head the Thorndike Memorial Laboratory and the Harvard Medical Unit of Boston City Hospital. A year later, he joined the Beth Israel Hospital as chair and physician-in-chief of its Department of Medicine. He remained at Beth Israel — now the Beth Israel-Deaconess Medical Center — until his death. He was also the William Applebaum Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

For 40 years, Epstein was a summer investigator at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory in Maine, where he studied the comparative physiology of salt and water homeostasis in lower vertebrates and trained many undergraduates, medical students and fellows.

Epstein leaves his wife, Sherrie (Spivak); his four children, Mark Epstein of New York, Ann Epstein of Brookline, Massachusetts, Sara Epstein of Winchester, Massachusetts, and Jonathan Epstein of Radnor, Pennsylvania; and nine grandchildren. Donations in his memory may be made to the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory in Salisbury Cove, Maine.

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