Robert Berliner ’36, former med school dean, dead at 86

Former Yale School of Medicine Dean Robert W. Berliner ’36, a professor emeritus of cellular and molecular physiology and a major contributor to the foundations of modern renal physiology, died Tuesday at age 86.

Berliner and his colleagues were instrumental in explaining the main features of potassium excretion by the kidney. Their pioneering work helped establish early conceptions of how potassium, sodium and hydrogen are transported by the kidney, and provided the foundations for later work on single tubules and tubule cells.

After graduating from Yale College, Berliner went on to Columbia University for his medical education and became an assistant professor of medicine there in 1947.

He joined the National Institutes of Health in 1950 and served as chief of the laboratory of kidney and electrolyte metabolism, a primary force in making the NIH one of the leading biomedical scientific institutions in the world. He served as director of intramural research at the National Heart Institute between 1954 and 1968 and was later appointed the deputy director for science at the NIH.

Berliner left the NIH in 1978 to become the dean of the Yale School of Medicine and remained there until 1984. He served as director of the Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences from 1984 to 1991.

As well as holding a number of prestigious awards, Berliner was a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He received honorary degrees from Yale and the Medical College of Wisconsin in 1973.

The University also honored him by creating the Robert W. Berliner Chair and the Robert W. Berliner Lectureship in Renal Physiology.

“The world of medicine has lost a truly dedicated researcher, educator and administrator,” current School of Medicine Dean David Kessler said. “Bob Berliner served as dean at Yale School of Medicine at a time of breakneck discoveries and growth in both the investigative and clinical arenas. He will always be remembered for his commitment to being a role model of brilliance, integrity, friendship and mentorship for all around him.”

Berliner is survived by his wife, Leah; their four children; nine grandchildren; and his brother, William. A private funeral will be held Sunday, and a memorial service will take place at a later date.

–Yale Daily News

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