Family and friends of Jerome Gross of Waban and Aquinnah, Mass., are deeply saddened by his loss. A doctor, scientist and mentor to many in the field of collagen research, Jerry passed away on January 27, one month shy of his 97th birthday. Over 60-plus years on the faculty of Harvard and in labs at the Mass General Hospital, Jerry focused his energy, intelligence and creativity on fundamental puzzles of biology. Why do some wounds fail to harness the body’s power to heal? What mechanisms allow salamanders to regrow lost limbs? When not peering into microscopic structures of cells, Jerry gazed at the stars – a pastime that began on the roof of his Bronx apartment building at age 11 and lasted until his final summer under the night skies of Aquinnah.
Jerry’s flashes of insight, the intensity of his attention, the depth of his affections and the complex spectrum of his emotions will be sorely missed by his wife, Betty, his children and their families spanning four generations, his sister, Lois, and by friends in Newton, on Martha’s Vineyard, and in many countries around the world.
The family is planning a memorial service in Boston the third week of March. We also hope to celebrate Jerry’s life in Aquinnah this summer. In lieu of flowers, please consider contributing to neurology research at the Mass General.
You can read the obituary in the Martha's Vineyard Gazette here.
A Brief Biography of Jerome Gross
Jerome Gross was born in New York City on February 25, 1917. He graduated in 1939 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His scientific interests included astronomy as well as biology, but he chose a career in medicine and attended the New York University School of Medicine. After a year as an intern at Long Island College Hospital, he served two years in the Army Medical Corps.
Dr. Gross thought that clues to such diseases as rheumatic fever would be found in the molecular structure and biology of connective tissue. He returned to M.I.T. to join the laboratory of Professor Francis O. Schmitt, where he began research on structural macromolecules utilizing chemical and electron microscopical methods. Despite many important observations on hyaluronic acid and elastin, his longest scientific love affair was with collagen.
He was soon attracted to Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital by Dr. Walter Bauer, who thought that many of the secrets of rheumatoid arthritis and rheumatic fever could be uncovered by such studies as these. Dr. Gross' pioneering findings that collagen molecules could be extracted from tissues using solutions of neutral salt or dilute acid and reconstituted into various structures opened up the field of collagen research.
Dr. Gross found that these ubiquitous, insoluble, fibrous collagen networks had a readily visualized ultrastructural order and patterns that could be interpreted in terms of specific molecular packing. From studies
of skin collagens from growing animals, he developed a working hypothesis of how these collagen fibers could be formed in vivo.
Dr. Gross soon began to study collagen structure in animal models of human wound healing. In the late 1950s, he became interested in lathyrism and, with Dr. Charles Levene, made the critical observations that lathyrism resulted from abnormal aggregation and defective crosslinking of collagen molecules. Analysis of solubilized collagen from lathyritic tissues by chromatographic methods demonstrated, with collaborators Drs. Karl Piez and George Martin at the National Institute of Health, that collagen was composed of three polypeptide chains. These first experiments opened up the field of collagen biology.
In the early 1960s, Dr. Gross, with a Belgian postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Charles Lapiere, began his search for mechanisms whereby collagen fibers are degraded during tissue remodeling. He reasoned that collagenolytic enzymes, which previously had been identified only in bacteria, could be made only when and where they were needed. Drs. Gross and Lapiere, therefore, looked for collagenase in the medium from tissue implants in culture. Together, they found the enzyme and characterized its mechanism of action and its unique cleavage site.
With such colleagues as Martin Tanzer, Utaka Nagai, Andrew Kang and others, Dr. Gross then continued studies of mechanisms of collagenolysis, lathyrism and wound
healing. In 1969, Dr. Gross was promoted to Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and named Biologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital.
Scientists from all over the world continued to come to work in Dr. Gross’ Developmental Biology Laboratory in the Department of Medicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital. He continued to make important observations on collagen structure, mechanisms of fibrillogenesis, role of hyaluronic acid and hyaluronidase in wound healing, embryogenesis and limb regeneration, origin of corneal ulcers, and control of collagenase production.
In partial recognition of his extraordinary accomplishments, Jerome Gross was elected to fellowship in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1966, membership in the National Academy of Sciences in 1974, and in the Institute of Medicine in 1986. He has served in many other important organizations, which have major roles in the conduct of biological research. In 1987, he became Professor Emeritus of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, but continues as an active productive scientist. Few individuals have had such an impact on modern biology or have influenced the scientific lives of so many others.
By Stephen M. Krane, M. D., published in the program notes when Jerry received the Paul Klemperer Award and Medal on Nov 1, 1988
1917 Born in NYC
1939 BS, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
1943 MD, New York University College of Medicine
1943-44 Medical intern: Long Island College Hospital, NY
1944-46 Captain, US Army Medical Corps
1946-55 Research Associate, Department of Biology, MIT
1946-48 Fellow, Life Insurance Medical Research Fund
1948-51 Clinical and Research Fellow in Medicine, Mass General (MGH)
1950-54 Research Associate in Medicine, Harvard Medical School (HMS)
1952 Ludwig Kast Lectureship, New York Academy of Medicine
1953-62 Committee on the Skeletal System, National Research Council
1951-66 Associate Biologist, MGH
1956-60 Associate Editor, Journal of Histochemistry and Cytochemistry
1956-91 Helen Hay Whitney Foundation, Scientific Advisory Committee
1954-57 Associate in Medicine, MHS
1956-61 Established Investigator, American heart Association
1957-64 Assistant Professor of Medicine, HMS
1959 Ciba Foundation Award for Research Relevant to the Problems
1959-62 Advisory Panel on Molecular Biology, National Science Foundation
1962-66 Board of Scientific Counselors, National Institute of Dental
1963-71 Advisory Editor, Journal of Experimental Medicine
1963 Special Award of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists
1964 Summer Study Group on Exobiology, Space Science Board
1964-67 Chairman, committee on Research, MGH
1965-68 Consulting Editor, Developmental Biology
1966 Herman Beerman Lectureship, Society for Investigative
1966-70 Molecular Biology Study Section, NIH
1964-69 Associate Professor of Medicine, HMS
1966- Biologist, Medical Services, MGH
1966- American Academy of Arts and Sciences
1969-87 Professor of Medicine, HMS
1973 Harvey Society Lectureship
1974- National Academy of Sciences
1974-80 Medical Foundation of Boston, Board of Directors
1975-78 Breast Cancer Task Force, NIH
1976 Fogarty Senior International Fellowship, NIH
(University College London, Zoology)
1976-81 Editorial Board, Journal of Biological Chemistry
1979-82 Chairman, Committee on Research, MGH
1979-82 Boston Biomedical Research Institute, Corporation
1982 Wellcome Visiting Professor, Robert Wood Johnson
1983-95 W. Alton Jones Cell Science Center, Scientific Affairs
1985- Helen Hay Whitney Foundation, Board of
1986- Institute of Medicine
1987- Professor of Medicine, emeritus, HMS
1988 First Paul Klemperer Award recipient, New York
Academy of Medicine
1982-92 Acting Associate Director for Research, Cutaneous
Biology Research Center, MGH
1992- Biologist, Dermatology, MGH
1993- Senior Associate for Academic Affairs, Cutaneous
Biology Research Center, MGH
1995 Lifetime Achievement Award of The Wound Healing
1997 Symposium: The Extracellular Matrix. A celebration of
Jerry’s 80th Birthday (co-sponsored by the
International Society for Matrix Biology)