Tributes: Sir Hans Kornberg, Anton Mavretic
Sir Hans Kornberg
College of Arts & Sciences Professor of Biology
Sir Hans Kornberg, a beloved member of the CAS biology department for 24 years, died on December 16, 2019.
Born in 1928, Kornberg fled to the United Kingdom from Nazi Germany at the age of 11. He studied in the Krebs Lab at the University of Sheffield and earned a PhD in biochemistry in 1953. After working in several research labs in the US and the UK and lecturing at Oxford, he served as professor of biochemistry at the University of Leicester. He was the Sir William Dunn Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge, and later was the 34th master of Christ’s College and the deputy vice chancellor for the University of Cambridge.
Upon retirement in 1995, Kornberg was invited to serve as director of BU’s University Professors Program (UNI), which he did until the program’s end in 2011. In addition to leading UNI, he was a professor of biology, and taught biochemistry to BU undergraduate and graduate students for the past 24 years.
He was the recipient of numerous awards and honors. He was appointed Fellow of the Royal Society in 1965, and was knighted in 1978. He held 11 honorary doctorates and was a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, as well as a Foreign Associate Member of the National Academy of Sciences and American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received the UK Biochemical Society’s inaugural Colworth Medal and the Otto Warburg Medal of the German Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
His research, conducted for over 70 years, was focused on the regulation of carbohydrate transport in microorganisms.
Kornberg was more than a brilliant biochemist and skilled educator. He is remembered for his generosity, wit, many stories, endless puns, and cheerful nature. He always had an anecdote or witty story at hand, whether about his friendship with actor Julie Andrews in his youth or his affinity for Latin wordplay. Visitors to the Kornberg Lab were promptly invited to take part in the most important experiment of all: making coffee.—Jennifer Scott
Former ENG Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Anton “Tony” Mavretic, 84, a gifted faculty member in the College of Engineering and research associate with BU’s Center for Space Physics, died on November 21, 2019.
Mavretic came to BU in 1979 and joined the full-time faculty as an associate professor in 1980. He taught courses such as modern active circuit design and electronics I and II.
“We were a nascent department back then, and Tony shepherded our electronics department through the early years,” says Mark Horenstein, an ENG professor of electrical and computer engineering. “I recall that one of his students often referred to him as ‘the God of electronics,’ and he knew his stuff. I learned a lot from just working with him.”
Mavretic was also well regarded by students, receiving the Outstanding Professor of the Year award in 1981. Mark Tubinis (ENG’81) said in a 2011 interview, “His humor and generous sharing of his time helped me to achieve a lot at BU.”
Horenstein attributed Mavretic’s rapport with students to his experience in the field: “Tony had a very practical orientation because he came from industry. He was an engineer through and through, and he brought his understanding of engineering to the classroom.”
Before joining the BU faculty, Mavretic worked in industry and research. He was a project engineer at MIT’s Center for Space Research, where his group developed the Plasma Science Experiment (PLS) for NASA’s Voyager spacecrafts, work that was recognized by NASA with a group achievement award in 1981.
The impact of his work with the Voyager mission is still being felt today.
“The PLS continues to provide new data and new discoveries 42 years later, as Voyager 2 leaves the heliosphere and enters interstellar space,” says Josh Semeter, an ENG professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of the Center for Space Physics.
Mavretic left BU in 1995 for an opportunity in the semiconductor industry, but returned 10 years later as a research associate in the Center for Space Physics. He is being remembered as a knowledgeable and committed mentor.
He also was lauded in his native Slovenia. Mavretic was made a lifetime member of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts in 2007.—Emily Wade