Dr. Knobil was a leader and pioneer in many areas of endocrinology, including growth and reproduction. Kr. Knobil's classic contributions include the species-specific effects of Growth Hormone (GH), a model for positive and negative estrogen feedback control of the menstrual cycle, and elucidation of the hypothalamic Gonadotrpin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH) pulse generator. His discovery that pulsatile GnRH stimulates Luteinizing Hormone (LH) secretion, altered the field of reproductive endocrinology. This observation also unmasked a pivotal role for pulsatile secretion as a mechanism of hormonal control. Dr. Knobil died April 13, 2000.
The son of an Austrian parents, Dr. Knobil was born in Berlin, Germany on September 20, 1926. The Knobil family moved to Paris in the early 1930's. When the Germans invaded Paris in 1940, the family emigrated to New York City where he attended high school.
At the age of 15, he entered the New York State College of Agriculture at Cornell in 1942. He chose Animal Science as his major due to interests developed from time spent on farms in France during the summers, and from attending the Kinderhook Farm Camp after moving to the United States.
Upon graduating from Cornell in 1948 (including a 2 year interruption of service in the US Army), he entered graduate school in zoology where he worked in the laboratory of Professor Sanuel L. Leonard. After completing his PhD, Dr. Knobil accepted a post-doctoral position with Roy O. Greep at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine from 1951 to 1953. While a fellow, he assumed Greep's teaching duties in endocrinology and rapidly gained recognition as a gifted and scholarly teacher.
In 1953 he was appointed Instructor in the Physiology Department of the Harvard Medical School. In 1957, he was promoted to Assistant Professor after having been selected by Harvard Medical School for the prestigious Markle Scholar in Academic Medicine for the years 1956-1961.
From 1961-1981 he was the Richard Beatty Mellon Professor of Physiology, Chairman of the Department of Physiology and the Director of the Center for Research in Primate Reproduction at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School
Dr. Knobil accepted the Deanship of the University of Texas Medical School at Houston in 1981. From 1981 on he was the H. Wayne Hightower Professor in the Medical Sciences and Director of the Laboratory of the Laboratory for Neuroendocrinology at the University of Texas-Houston Health Science Center - Medical School. The Laboratory closed in 1997. More than 80 fellows and students studied in his laboratories in Boston, Pittsburgh and Houston. In 1989 he was named an Ashbel Smith Professor, the University of Texas Health Science Center.
Among the many awards, Dr. Knobil received were the highest ones awarded by the Society for the Study of Reproduction (Carl G. Hartman Award, 1983), The Endocrine Society (Fred Conrad Koch Award, 1982), and the American Physiological Society (Walter B. Cannon Memorial Lecture, 1997). He was elected to numerous positions of leadership including the Presidencies of The Endocrine Society (1976), the American Physiological Society (1979), and the International Society of Endocrinology (1984-1988). He was a member of many U.S. and foreign scientific societies' review boards, NIH study sections, and the editorial broads of numerous scientific journals.
Dr. Knobil was a member of the U.S. National Academy of Science (1986), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a foreign associate of the French Academy of Science, the Italian National Academy of Science, and the Belgian Royal Academy of Medicine. He received several honorary degrees among them ones from the University of Bordeaux (1980), the Medical College of Wisconsin (1983), the University of Liege (1994), and the University of Milan (2000).
In addition to being the author of 217 scientific papears, he was the editor of several reference books in endocrinology and reproduction, including The Handbook of Physiology (1974), The Physiology of Reproduction (1988, 1994), and The Encyclopedia of Reproduction (1998).
Dr. Knobil died April 13, 2000 in Houston Texas. He was survived by his wife of 40 years, Dr. Julane Hotchkiss Knobil, three sons, one daughter and four grandchildren.
Adapted from the Endocrine Reviews 22(6): 721-723, 2001.