Jeremiah Mead, architect of respiratory mechanics field, dies

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Emeritus professor was 88

Jeremiah “Jere” Mead, architect of the field of respiratory mechanics and professor emeritus
in the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard School of
Public Health
(HSPH), passed away on July 4, 2009, at a health care
facility in Ellsworth, Maine. He was 88 years old.

Working in the 1950s with then-research fellow Mary Ellen Avery, Mead
showed that fatal respiratory distress syndrome in newborns was caused
by abnormal surface tension in the lungs. Their discovery led to
surfactant replacement therapy, a treatment that continues to save

Mead received his S.B. from Harvard College in 1943 and his M.D.
from Harvard Medical School in 1946. He had a 37-year career at HSPH,
retiring in 1987. He began as an associate in physiology in 1950 and
was appointed professor of physiology at HSPH in 1965. He was appointed
the first Cecil K. and Philip Drinker Professor of Environmental
Physiology at the School in 1975. In 1990 he was awarded the Edward
Livingston Trudeau Medal by the American Lung Association in
recognition of his career accomplishments. In 1996, he received the
HSPH Faculty Emeritus Award of Merit.

A fellowship named after Mead was formed on the occasion of his
retirement by his trainees, colleagues, and friends. The fellowship is
awarded each year to recognize an outstanding post-doctoral fellow
training in respiratory biology.  

Mead is survived by his wife, Dot, his brother Judson, and four
children and their families. The HSPH Department of Environmental
Health is planning a memorial celebration in the fall.