Campus & Community

Professor of Medicine Eva J. Neer Dies at 62

3 min read

Professor of Medicine Eva J. Neer ’59 died at her home on Sunday, Feb. 20, from complications of breast cancer. She was 62. Family members say Neer battled the disease for the past 11 years but kept her condition hidden from many colleagues. A prominent heart researcher at the Medical School, Neer is being remembered for her revolutionary research on cell behavior, as well as for her efforts to help women advance up the academic ladder.

After joining the faculty as an associate professor in 1979, Neer spent much of her professional career in the Cardiovascular Unit at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She is credited with combining various scientific methodologies in her groundbreaking research that determined how a certain class of proteins functions to facilitate vision, smell, and taste. The research was considered controversial at the time, because it changed the view of how G proteins work.

Medical School Professor of Neurobiology and Pediatrics David Clapham, who worked with Neer in the G protein research, credits her for having “high standards for her own research and for the research of others.” Daniel Tosteson, Dean Emeritus and Caroline Shields Walker Distinguished Professor of Cell Biology at the Medical School, says Neer was a “remarkably conscientious and responsible citizen” of the School and a “superb scientist.”

Neer spent much of her time working to remove the “glass ceiling” that women in academia confront. Eleanor Shore, the Dean for Faculty Affairs in the Faculty of Medicine, says Neer was “not only an exceptional analyst, but she was also very astute about suggesting ways in which change could be promoted to ensure women were full participants in the academic community.” Shore says Neer “applied the same rigor to the study of women’s faculty problems that she did to her other scientific research.”

Born in Warsaw, Neer grew up in Manhattan. She was an alumna of Radcliffe College, Barnard College, and Columbia University. Neer served on the Board of Tutors in Biochemical Sciences at Harvard, as well as on the Harvard Students Research Committee at the Harvard Medical School. She was also a member of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and an adviser to the National Institutes of Health.

Neer is survived by her husband, Robert Neer, an associate professor of medicine at the Medical School, and two sons, Robert Jr. and Richard. A public memorial service will be held Saturday, March 4, at 3 p.m.