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Lawson Rosenberg


Lawson L. Rosenberg

Professor of Physiology, Emeritus

UC Berkeley

1920 – 2006



Born on April 3, 1920 in Hagerstown, Maryland, Dr. Rosenberg completed undergraduate studies at Johns Hopkins University (1940) and graduate studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where he received a Ph.D. degree in physiological chemistry (1951) and was appointed instructor in the Department of Pediatrics (1952-1953).


Rosenberg's academic career had been interrupted by his induction into the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1943. Because of work he had done in higher mathematics at Hopkins, Rosenberg was assigned to a very hush-hush group at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. After a short time there, it was on to Los Alamos, New Mexico, where he was put to calculating, for example, the arc of the trajectory of an aerial missile (whose nature he then ignored), or the necessary acceleration of a bomber plane if it were to escape the blast and aftershocks of bombing, etc. The work was quite boring, but vital, and Rosenberg took full advantage of the delights available in the extensive compound (a small city, really), like hiking in the neighboring mountains, horseback riding, or merely socializing with the families of some of his distinguished colleagues. While in New Mexico, he became acquainted by necessity with J. Robert Oppenheimer, Hans Bethe, and others involved in the Manhattan Project. He was among the group that witnessed the first detonation of an atomic bomb at Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945. The rest of the story proved to what use had been his many hours of calculation while in the service. He was demobilized in 1946 in Los Angeles, and after a brief stay there, moved back to Johns Hopkins, where he completed the Ph.D. degree and then performed postdoctoral research before moving to the Bay Area, where he would begin his distinguished career as both teacher and scientist.


In 1953 Rosenberg joined the laboratory of Dr. D. I. Arnon in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, as research assistant. While in Dr. Arnon’s laboratory (1953-1966), Dr. Rosenberg participated first in the identification and preparation of several enzymes of photosynthesis, the major interest of Dr. Arnon’s research. In 1959, Dr. Rosenberg became interested in the field of endocrinology, particularly in the biochemistry and function of the thyroid hormones, which he vigorously studied for the rest of his active career. In 1966, he was appointed associate professor in the Department of Physiology and Anatomy on the Berkeley campus, where he became professor in 1970. He retired in 1990 but was recalled through 1995 to teach endocrinology and to participate in the teaching of physiology. Dr. Rosenberg died in San Francisco on March 19, 2006.


Dr. Rosenberg’s enthusiasm for hormonal research and his devotion to optimal outcome in teaching and research made him an excellent and elegant lecturer as well as a respected investigator. Students liked his history-laden lectures, and his graduate and postdoctoral students appreciated his efficient mentoring and painstaking guidance. He was a member of the Endocrine Society, the American Thyroid Association and the American Society of Biological Chemists. He was for several years a member of the editorial board of Endocrinology and the editorial board of the International Journal of the Thyroid Gland, as well as an occasional editor of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. He served several years on Berkeley’s Chancellor’s Committee on Radioisotopes.


In his many publications, seminars and reports at numerous national and international conferences, Dr. Rosenberg addressed several aspects of thyroid gland function and provided new knowledge that has contributed significantly to our current understanding of composition of thyroidal iodoprotein, relationship of thyroid hormones to growth hormone and body growth, role of the hypophysis in regulation of thyroid hormone secretion, structure and role of deiodinases in the transformation of thyroxine into triiothyronine, the most biologically active thyroid hormone, and functional and biochemical comparison of thyroid hormones in different animal species.


Dr. Rosenberg’s keen scientific curiosity, his dynamic and integrative approach to biology, his support of academic pursuits, his community of goals and durable friendship with other like endocrinologists in the U.S. and abroad will be warmly remembered by all who knew him. The field of thyroid physiology owes him a lasting debt for his scientific contributions.



Paola S. Timiras

John G. Forte

Terry E. Machen