Lewis Seiden, Ph.D. (1934–2007)
Lewis S. Seiden, a pioneering psychopharmacologist, dedicated mentor, and inspiring colleague died on July 26, 2007, at the age of 72 years, not far from where he was born on August 1, 1934. Lew grew up in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago and, with his characteristically infectious smile and twinkling eyes, was quite fond of telling visitors about being a high school dropout...before relating that he entered the University of Chicago at the age of 16 with a full-tuition scholarship. Lew was planning on studying medicine as an undergraduate, but was tragically stricken with dystonia musculorum deformans shortly before his anticipated graduation in 1950. He subsequently resumed studies after a year of convalescence and learning to adapt to substantial impairments in balance, movement, and speech as the result of his illness. He earned first a B.A. in Liberal Arts in 1956 prior to a B.S. in Biology in 1958. Lew remained at the University of Chicago for graduate school where he earned his Ph.D. in Biopsychology in 1962 and married Anne Maxwell Seiden, M.D.; they had three children Alex, Evelyn, and Samuel, and one grandchild, Alex’s son Lewis.
Lew spent his entire academic career at the University of Chicago except for two brief but transforming experiences. He spent 2 years bringing behavioral pharmacology to the laboratory of future Nobel laureate Arvid Carlsson in Göteborg, Sweden, from 1962–1963. There, he published several papers on reserpine, L-DOPA, and the conditioned avoidance response. Carlsson later stated, “The remarkable thing about Lew’s stay with us was that he was able to teach us just as much as we could teach him.” Lew was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in medicine by the University of Göteborg in 1999.
Lew moved back to the University of Chicago following a second postdoctoral fellowship in Keith Killam’s laboratory at Stanford University from 1964–1965. He moved up the ranks, becoming a full Professor in 1977 in the Pharmacology and the Psychiatry departments. One of the important, and certainly revolutionary, themes of Lew’s work during this time was not only the measurement of drug effects on the brain and behavior but also the compelling observations that the environment and the state of the brain/behavior axis itself can modulate the effects of drugs upon the brain chemistry and behavior. This was a theme of a textbook Lew wrote in 1977 with Linda Dykstra entitled Psychopharmacology: A Biochemical and Behavioral Approach. For anyone interested in understanding how drugs work and how to discover new drugs, these lessons remain fresh today.
Lew trained more than 30 doctoral students and he published 165 peer-reviewed manuscripts and 41 book chapters. His work spanned a broad expanse from his initial paper on the partial purification of monoamine oxidase to operant behavior to neurotoxicity. His insightful development and thoughtful validation of an operant screen for antidepressant drugs and the differential-reinforcement-of-low rate 72-s (DRL 72-s) schedule has resulted in a richer understanding of serotonergic and noradrenergic mechanisms underlying antidepressant drugs that continues to engender predictions about novel mechanisms available for development. Lew brought to the forefront issues of significant public health interest in all of his research. This is highlighted by his leadership in a multidisciplinarian effort on the neurotoxicity of amphetamine and substituted amphetamines. Lew provided neurochemical, neuroanatomical, and behavioral evidence demonstrating neurotoxicity of methamphetamine. He and his group extended earlier findings on fenfluramine and alerted the scientific community to the neurotoxicological risks associated with the amphetamine-based designer drugs, which were becoming increasingly popular during this time.
In addition to his role as a supportive mentor, he was also a dedicated teacher of undergraduates, an insightful colleague, and a firm but supportive field editor for Neuropharmacology, Behavioral Pharmacology, and The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. Just one example of Lew’s view on his service to others and humility is reflected in his volunteering frequently as a patient for Neurology board exams. In addition to all of these scholarly activities, he still found time over the years to enjoying sailing Lake Michigan with family, friends, and colleagues and work on his farm in Michigan.
Amongst his many well-deserved awards included his selection as a Fellow in the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology and the American Psychological Association, member of the President’s Advisory Committee on Mental Health (1978), the board of scientific counselors for the National Institute of Environmental Services, and the Life Sciences Working Group for NASA. In 2002, the University of Chicago awarded Lew its Gold Key Award in recognition of his outstanding and loyal service to the Biological Sciences Division and the University.
Beyond these awards, Lew will remain an inspiring figure to us as a scientist, mentor, and friend and will continue to engender a deep degree of respect, admiration, and affection for his scientific vision, his endearing friendship, and for that captivating sparkle in his eyes.
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