Jeremiah Mead, architect of respiratory mechanics field, dies

Jeremiah Mead

Jeremiah Mead

For immediate release: July 7, 2009

Boston, MA — 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, ME. 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 lives.

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. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be sent to the Community Health Center, 16 Community Lane, Southwest Harbor, ME 04679 or to the Southwest Harbor Public Library.