Roy Walford, M.D.
Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Emeritus
Over the course of a remarkable career, Dr. Roy Walford emerged as a leading authority on the biology of aging and the concept of using caloric restriction to combat the effects of aging and disease. He wrote popular books, lent his expertise to none less than the World Health Organization and the White House, and served as the physician crew member for the groundbreaking Biosphere 2 project near Tucson, Arizona.
Dr. Walford, died in April 27, 2004 after becoming physically incapacitated with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease).
Born in 1924 in San Diego, Dr. Walford received his M.D. degree from the University of Chicago in 1948, following pre-medical studies at the California Institute of Technology. After an internship at Gorgas Memorial Hospital, Panama, residency at the V.A. Medical Center in Los Angeles, and two years in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, he joined the faculty at UCLA in 1954.
Over the last half-century, his contributions to the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and the UCLA Medical Center included serving as director of the Blood Bank and of the Hematology Division of the Clinical Laboratories (1959-80); director of the School of Medical Technology (1962-72); chairman of the Vivarium Committee (1965-68); and member of the Committee to Re-Write By-Laws. In addition, he was an expert advisor in immunology to the World Health Organization (1969-1984), senatorial delegate to the White House Conference on Aging (1981), and a member of the National Institute on Aging.
Dr. Walford’s main research focus was on the biology of aging, from the standpoints of immunology and molecular biology and with an emphasis on life extension technologies, such as calorie restriction, as experimental tools. He published more than 340 scientific papers and seven books. The latter include 1969’s The Immunologic Theory of Aging, regarded as a classic, and The Retardation of Aging and Disease by Dietary Restriction, listed by the Washington-based Alliance for Aging Research as “the most important event in gerontology in 1988.” Among his numerous honors were the Kleemeier Award (Gerontological Society of America), the Henderson Award (American Geriatrics Society), and in 1998 the France-based IPSEN Foundation’s “Longevity Prize.”
Dr. Walford appeared on Good Morning America, Larry King Live, The Learning Channel, The Discovery Channel, Nova, Dateline, Nightline, and with Diane Sawyer, Dan Rather, Paul Moyer, and numerous others. His work was widely featured in major print media outlets including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Fortune, Discover, Omni, and Life.
In 1991, Dr. Walford chose to become emeritus professor in order to serve as the inside physician, and hence one of the crew members, for the Biosphere 2 project. He and seven others were sealed for two years in a closed, self-contained, 3.15-acre, 7-million-cubic-foot ecological system. During that time, Dr. Walford conducted the first fully monitored experiment on humans of the type of calorie-restricted diet known to retard aging and extend life span in rodents and many other species. The results of this first human experiment have been widely reported in the scientific literature.
In accordance with his expressed desire, the department launched the establishment of the Roy Walford Endowed Lectureship. “An endowed lectureship will be a lasting tribute to Dr. Walford for his outstanding leadership and far-reaching contributions to research in the biology of aging,” says Dr. Jonathan Braun, professor and chair of the department. “It will provide permanent funding to invite national and international leaders to present lectures and interact with faculty and students in order to advance gerontology research in many of the areas originally initiated by Dr. Walford.”
Colleagues and Staff from:
UCLA Medical Sciences Development and
UCLA Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine