Dr. Reubin Andres, gerontologist

Dr. Reubin Andres

Dr. Reubin Andres, a retired gerontologist who challenged commonly circulated height-weight tables for the elderly and conducted diabetes research, died of complications from heart disease Sunday at his Lake Roland-area home. He was 89.

Dr. Andres believed that it was preferable to begin life lean and gradually put on weight in the middle of life. Colleagues said this position challenged the diet industry and other physicians.

"He was a great problem-solver," said a friend, Dr. Jordan Tobin, the retired chief of the applied physiology section of the National Institute on Aging, who lives in Cleveland. "In his lifetime, you cannot underestimate the number of scientists he trained. His work in training was remarkable."

Born in Dallas, Dr. Andres was the son of a grocer and his wife. The family spoke Yiddish and Dr. Andres retained an affection for the language throughout his life, often using an apt phrase when the situation called for it.

He completed courses at Southern Methodist University at age 16 but did not graduate because he failed to fulfill a religious requirement.

He graduated at age 21 from Southwestern Medical School and served an internship at the old Gallinger Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Andres served in the Army from 1942 to 1947 and worked in the control of venereal disease and malaria. He served his residency at the veterans hospital in McKinney, Texas.

In 1948, he married Dallas resident Amelia Martin Cristol. They had met on a blind date.

The young couple moved to Baltimore, where Dr. Andres conducted research with Drs. Joe Lilienthal and Ken Zierler at Johns Hopkins Hospital. In 1956, he took a post at the old Baltimore City Hospitals, where he became the head of outpatient care and often treated indigent patients.

Family members said that Dr. Nathan Shock, a pioneer in gerontology studies, invited Dr. Andres to join the staff at the Gerontology Research Center. Several years later, the center became the National Institute on Aging. Dr. Andres became the first clinical director of the agency, which was then housed on the grounds of what is now Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

Dr. Andres also studied diabetes and aging. Among his many contributions to science was the invention of the glucose clamp, a method of measuring glucose metabolism. He also worked to redefine diabetes diagnosis standards.

"He studied the interaction of glucose and insulin," said Dr. Tobin. "His work helped others in the development of the insulin pump."

Dr. Andres challenged height-weight tables that were issued by insurance companies and other agencies.

For decades, Dr. Andres was an active investigator in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging, which studied people throughout their lives.

"He looked to separate what is normal aging from disease," said Dr. Tobin.

He also studied the height, obesity and mortality standards that were published as tables in the 1950s.

"He stated firmly that the tables needed to be adjusted for age," said his daughter, Judith Andres Schwait of Baltimore. "He maintained that if longevity was the goal, it was better to begin life lean and gradually add pounds in maturity, not a popular theory with the diet industry and other doctors."

She characterized her father as an independent thinker who was devoted to evidence-based science.

She said her father was "a man of vital interests and enthusiasms." He traveled widely and visited Texas in search of bluebonnets and pecans. He was also sports fan and enjoyed football and baseball.

Dr. Andres made an art of the cocktail hour and was a careful mixologist.

"He was the master of the martini and knew its history," said a friend and neighbor, Henry Johnson. "He also loved a good summertime thunderstorm and would plan a dinner on the porch when one was due."

His daughter said her father was a devotee of the 1948 Bernard DeVoto book, "The Hour, a Cocktail Manifesto," about enjoying a civilized drink after working hours.

He did not care for vodka martinis, his daughter said. He also conducted studies of gins and dry vermouths. He liked his martinis with a dash of orange bitters. He used a crystal pitcher and glasses and skewered olives with silver picks.

In social gatherings, he made and ignited an alcoholic blended beverage called Cafe Diablo in a large bowl. He ignited the contents and ladled brandy in from a height.

A music lover, he could compare opera productions from theaters he had visited.

"He was proud, partisan and affectionate," his daughter said. "He also had a genius for friendship, and his friends agreed that he was a virtuoso friend. He was also remarkable for his wit, his gallantry, and his sense of mischief."

He wrote numerous scientific papers on nutrition, pharmacokinetics and alcohol metabolism. He won awards, including the 1986 Allied Signal Achievement Award in Aging, the 1974 Robert Kleemeier Award from the American Gerontological Society for "outstanding contributions to aging research" and the 1978 International Association of Gerontology Award.

He was the co-editor of the textbook "Principles of Geriatric Medicine."

A life celebration will be held at a later date.

In addition to his wife of 63 years and his daughter, survivors include three sons, Clay Andres of Roxbury, Conn., Laurence Andres of Seattle and Thomas Andres of Riverdale, N.Y.; and seven grandchildren.


Recommended on Baltimore Sun