Vol 11. Issue 1 / January 10, 2011


In Memoriam:
Robert Nakamura (1927 - 2010)

Robert ("Bob") Nakamura, a major player in the early events and subsequent activity of both Scripps Clinic and The Scripps Research Institute, passed away December 31, 2010, from pulmonary failure.

Bob was among the first wave of new postdoctoral fellows to train in basic research in the Department of Experimental Pathology (now the Department of Immunology and Microbial Science) at Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation, a predecessor of The Scripps Research Institute. Bob came to Scripps in 1965, where he joined Bill Weigle’s laboratory and studied immunologic tolerance to thyroglobulin and the breaking of tolerance leading to autoimmune thyroid disease. In 1968, he left Scripps to become a faculty member at the University of California (UC), Irvine, where he split his time between research and clinical pathology. He was recruited back to Scripps in 1974 to head the Department of Pathology until 1992 and again in 1998. At Scripps, Bob set up a reference laboratory where the profit from assays returned to the institute to provide competitive postdoctoral fellowships for institutional research fellows.

In addition to his position as professor in the Department of Immunology and Department of Molecular and Experimental Medicine at The Scripps Research Institute, Bob was president of the Scripps Clinic Medical Group from 1981 to 1991. He served on the faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and was emeritus professor of pathology at UC Irvine and UC San Diego Schools of Medicine.

Bob was born on June 10, 1927, in Montibello, California. He grew up working with his family on their farm, the youngest of five children, with one sister and three brothers. During WWII, his family was relocated to the Rohwer internment camp in Arkansas. He subsequently attended college at the University of Minnesota, graduated from Whittier College, did graduate work at UC Berkeley, and received his M.D. degree from Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia. He trained in pathology at the Long Beach Veterans Hospital and the UCLA Harbor General Hospital, and served with the UCLA branch of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission in Nagasaki, Japan.

He was author or co-author of more than 150 scientific papers and editor, contributor, and/or author of more than 50 books in his areas of interest: immunology, immunopathology, immunochemistry, and molecular pathology. He served as co-editor of the Journal of Clinical Laboratory Analysis and was on the editorial board of the Journal of lmmunoassays and the Journal of Biosensors and Bioelectronics. He was a member of a number of professional organizations, particularly active in the Association of Medical Laboratory lmmunologists, American Association of Clinical Chemists, American Society of Clinical Pathologists, and the College of American Pathologists. Following his retirement from Scripps, he worked as medical director at Prometheus Therapeutics and Diagnostics until a month prior to his death.

Bob enjoyed his work immensely, and loved to teach and mentor trainees and physicians, taking great pride in their successes. He was known for his leadership skills, no-nonsense communication style, and quirky sense of humor. He greatly enjoyed his friends and colleagues and loved to take them out to lunch and share snacks and conversation with them.

He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Jane; his daughters Mary Nakamura and Nancy Ellison; four grandchildren: Christina, Andrew, Ryan, and Charlotte; his sister, Fusako, and brothers, George and Frank.

We remember Bob not only for his scientific, pathologic, and administrative competency, but for his love of Scripps, his friendship, and abundant sense of humor. We will miss him.

Frank Chisari
Tom Edgington
Michael Oldstone


Send comments to: mikaono[at]scripps.edu




Immunologist Robert Nakamura was author of more than 150 scientific papers and editor, contributor and/or author of more than 50 books.