Dr. Melvin Jacob Glimcher will always be remembered for his major scientific breakthroughs that have helped many patients all over the world, and for his research that brought about a better understanding of science in the course of his spectacular career. Dr. Melvin, who passed away on May 12, 2014, was born in Brookline in 1925. At the age of 17, while still in high school working as a sportswriter, he tried to join the Marines only for his mother to track him at the recruiting office.
He later joined the Marines where his spectacular career began after he was sent to Duke and Purdue University to pursue science. At the University, Dr. Melvin earned degrees in mechanical engineering and physics. He graduated from Harvard medical school where he opted to become an orthopedic surgeon.
He later joined Massachusetts Institute of Technology after completing his surgical internship and residency. There he studied biophysics, biochemistry and engineering to improve his research skills and to find more solutions in orthopedics surgery. “Orthopedics in the future will not be simply surgery, or medicine, but a combination of both; plus knowledge of the whole area of skeletal structure, its biology, chemistry, and biomechanics,” he told the Globe.
He also conducted studies that led to the development of new evidence and better understanding of how human teeth and bones develop. He proved how proteins, little quantities of calcium and other minerals in human body combine together to form a bone. His discoveries laid foundation for treatment of many bone diseases, the notable one being Osteoporosis.
One of Dr. Melvin’s breakthrough for which he will always be remembered came in 1968, while as a leading developer he succeeded in devising what was named the “Boston Arm”, an artificial arm that worked in response to commands from the brain. The arm, just like any normal human arm could adjust to different weights; pick delicate things gently than others.
The idea behind the invention of Boston Arm came from the study of communications and automatic control, both in living things and machines. Today, researchers are underway to perfect this invention of stimulating nerves so that devices can have the feeling of touch. Dr. Melvin always encouraged young scientists to further their science to make the world a better place. In 2006, he joined hands with his daughter, Dr. Laurie Glimcher, a well established immunologist to come up with a discovery of new genes that helped in controlling of bone mass.
Dr. Laurie’s love for science was brought about by the admiration of her father and with his encouragement in 2011; she became dean of Weill Cornell Medical College. When she was at Harvard, she continued with the legacy of her family by winning the Soma Weiss Award, which her dad had also won, making them the first father-daughter duo to scoop the award.
At the age of 39, Dr. Melvin was named the Edith M. Ashley Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, becoming the first person to a tenured chair in orthopedic surgery at Harvard. Furthermore, following his breathtaking achievement, he was the first to win the Bristol-Myers Squibb/Zimmer Award.
Dr. Melvin will always remain in the hearts of many people, mostly his patients, who after treatment would write thank you notes; by his students, for whom he simplified their understanding of science and by the entire word for his contribution to science.