Dr. Edson Albuquerque, a University of Maryland epidemiology and public health professor and scientist who researched the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, died of an embolism July 22 at St. Joseph’s Medical Center. He was 82 and lived in Roland Park.
Born in Recife, in the state of Pernambuco, Brazil, he earned his medical degree from the Federal University of Pernambuco School of Medicine and a doctorate with highest honors at the Escola Paulista de Medicina in São Paulo. He later studied at Tulane University on a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation at the University of Illinois.
He studied with two scientists, Sir Bernard Katz in London and Dr. Stephen Thesleff at the University of Lund in Sweden, and was named a professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he was also a Buswell Fellow.
“His studies with Katz and Thesleff helped him establish his independent career,” said his wife, Dr. Edna F.R. Pereira Albuquerque. “And yet for all his accolades and accomplishments, he was very humble. He was a people person who adored a life with his family,”
He moved to Baltimore in 1974 and joined the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Medicine as professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology. In 2010, he moved to the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health where he set up the Division of Translational Toxicology.
He worked in his lab until his death.
“The field has lost a great leader whose pacesetting findings span five decades,” said Dr. Palmer Taylor, associate vice chancellor for health sciences at the University of California at San Diego. “He was a true standout in the discipline of pharmacology, serving as the chair of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Maryland, bringing to it international prominence.”
A University of Maryland biography said that Dr. Albuquerque studied the effects of different toxicants, including lead, nerve agents and insecticides on neuronal functions in cells in his lab and in animal models.
The university’s sketch said Dr. Albuquerque also researched nicotinic and glutamatergic synapses in the central nervous system connected to cognition, learning and memory. He also studied Alzheimer's disease.
“Edson was an outstanding scientist and colleague who had tremendous wisdom and worked tirelessly. He cared deeply about the people who worked with him and was passionate about the work being done in his division; he had a wonderful sense of humor that delighted our faculty and staff,” said Dr. Jay Magaziner, a University of Maryland professor, in a statement.
Colleagues said Dr. Albuquerque’s research laid the groundwork for the development of a new class of drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.
"Edson was truly an international research star,” Dr. Donald E. Wilson, a University of Maryland professor and dean emeritus, said in a statement. “Unlike most of us, Edson became more productive as an investigator with age. In the fifteen years I served as his dean, I was also impressed by his humanness and warmth. We shall all miss this unique man."
Dr. Albuquerque won numerous awards, among them the Order of the Grand Cross and the Rio Branco Award. He also was given the Jacob Javits Neuroscience Research Award from the National Institutes of Health and the Otto Krayer Award from the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.
Dr. E. Albert Reece, executive president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland, dean of the School of Medicine and the Bowers professor, said in a statement: “Dr. Albuquerque’s research has translated into important treatment for diseases such as Alzheimer’s. … His work was an important contribution to our research at the School of Medicine. We have lost a truly great scientist.”
He was associated with more than 400 scientific papers and mentored nearly 100 students.
Dr. Albuquerque enjoyed classical music as well as jazz, with Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole among his favorites. He enjoyed working with his hands and tinkering with auto motors and garden tools.
“He was also an incredible cook,” said his wife. “He always prepared Brazilian vegetable, meat and shrimp dishes for an end of year party at the school.”
A funeral will be held in Brazil at the time of Dr. Albuquerque’s burial.
Dr. Albuquerque is survived by his wife, an associate professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine; two sons, Eric R. Albuquerque of Baltimore and Dr. Felipe C. Albuquerque of Phoenix, Ariz; a daughter, Dr. Maria Luiza C. Albuquerque of Philadelphia; three brothers, Elson Albuquerque, Edelson Albuquerque and Edésio Albuquerque, all of Recife; a sister, Dr. Edna Albuquerque Diniz of São Paulo, Brazil; and three grandchildren.