Harold Morowitz ’47 GRD ’51, a former faculty member and Pierson College master, died on March 22. He was 88.
Morowitz received a B.S. in physics and philosophy, an M.S. in physics and a Ph.D. in biophysics all from Yale and was a professor in the University’s Department of Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry from 1955 to 1987. Trained as a physicist, Morowitz became best known for applying thermodynamics theory — normally studied in physics — to biology. His book, “Energy Flow in Biology,” posits that natural energy flows create ecological systems to sustain life.
“I strongly appreciated his contributions of physical understanding to biology in his effort to reunite what specialization had torn apart,” professor emeritus of molecular biophysics and biochemistry Robert Shulman said. “Harold, by writing on thermodynamics, codified and made available the best contributions to biology that physical science could make, then and now.”
Shulman added that thermodynamics is essential to the understanding of biochemical reactions, adding that Morowitz’s research made it possible for biological scientists to deal with “confusing terms” like entropy.
Morowitz also served as master of Pierson College from 1981 to 1986. After leaving Yale in 1987, he taught at George Mason University from 1988 until his death. At George Mason, he founded the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, an institute which seeks to understand the human mind. He was the chairman emeritus of the science board of the Santa Fe Institute, an interdisciplinary education center, and was the founding editor of the scientific journal Complexity. He authored or co-authored 19 books.
Beyond his roles as an educator and researcher, Morowitz also used his expertise in industry. He was a longtime consultant at NASA, advising on experiments conducted remotely on the surface of Mars and inside Biosphere 2, the world’s largest enclosed ecosystem.
In 1983, Morowitz testified in McLean v. Arkansas, a case that successfully challenged a state law mandating the teaching of creation science in Arkansas public schools.
Morowitz is survived by his wife, Lucille, and four sons.