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Paul H. Silverman

 Adjunct Professor of Medicine

Director of Corporate and Governmental Affairs, Beckman Laser Institute

Associate Chancellor for the Center for the Health Sciences

Research Affiliation with the Department of Developmental & Cell Biology




Paul Hyman Silverman was born in Minneapolis in 1924. As a young boy growing up during the Great Depression, he was quickly identified as having a superior work ethic and intellect. At age six, he and his brother sold magazines at the local market before school, as well as newspapers after. Paul won the Twin Cities prize for his age group in reading comprehension, and developed a deep love for books. He wanted to read every book in the library in his “spare time”.

As a young adult, Paul became a pre-medical student at the University of Minnesota while simultaneously holding three part-time jobs. Later, Paul joined the U.S. Army, and trained as a wheeled vehicle mechanic and later served in a MASH unit. It was during his service that he met his wife Nancy. He and Nancy were married on May 20, 1945. In 1950, their son Daniel was born and a year later Paul completed his M.S. thesis on Trypanosomiasis at Northwestern University, and moved his family to Israel where he began his research on malaria.

In 1953, Paul and his family moved to England where Paul joined the School of Tropical Medicine at the University of Liverpool. Paul was able to successfully identify the mode of transmission of the beef tapeworm, showing that seagulls carried the infectious organisms from sewage treatment outlets to meadows full of cows. Paul earned his Ph.D. in parasitology and epidemiology, and was later awarded a D.Sc. for his contributions to this field.

Paul returned to the United States at age 39. He accepted a professorship at the University of Illinois, where he had been interviewed by Jack Peltason, who was then the Dean of Arts and Sciences. There he continued his research on malaria, focusing on the development of a vaccine. In 1972 Paul and his malaria team moved to the University of New Mexico, where a “killed” vaccine, inspired by Jonas Salk, was developed. However due to a variety of non-scientific issues, including constraints on volunteers, patent positions, and politics, this malaria vaccine was unable to progress towards therapy.

In 1975 Paul accepted the position of Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies at New Mexico and three years later he moved on to become the Provost for Research and Graduate Studies at the State University of New York. In 1980 he became President of the University of Maine at Orono. Following these years in administration, Paul returned to research in 1984 as a Senior Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab. At Berkeley he served as Associate Laboratory Director for Life Sciences and Director of the Donner Lab, and later became Director of the Biotechnology Research and Education Program for the University of California system. He was a strong advocate for the Human Genome project, and established the first genome center at UC Berkeley. Following a few years as Director of Scientific Affairs at Beckman Instruments, in 1994 he was appointed Associate Chancellor for Health Sciences at UC Irvine, helping the development of the biomedical research complex, as well as the University Research Park.

Paul’s career was marked by his interest in fostering collaboration, providing a role model for leadership and solving major biological problems. He was a member of numerous organizations whose mission is to tackle difficult global problems, exemplified by the Human Genome Organization, and the World Academy of Art and Science. He was on the Board of the Hastings Center, and served as Director of the Western Center of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Beyond his numerous scientific achievements, Paul was a passionate social activist who fought for civil rights throughout his entire life. He believed strongly in fostering dialogue between scientists and the public, believing that science should be more accessible to the lay person. Above all Paul was a dedicated family man, always making time for his family even when his career path pulled him in other directions.

Paul died on July 16, 2004 of complications resulting from a transplant to deal with a blood cell disorder he had battled for several years. Paul had an unshakable faith in science and humanity that remained with him until the end. He is survived by his wife Nancy, son Daniel Joseph, daughter Claire and five grandchildren, and the many friends who were touched by his life.


Paul, you were a lovely human being.


Susan V. Bryant