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Benjamin W. Zweifach, an eminent researcher and teacher of human physiology, died on Thursday, October 23, in San Diego, due to complications following heart surgery. He was 86.

Zweifach was a professor emeritus of bioengineering at the University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego) School of Engineering where he worked until the time of his death.

"Ben Zweifach's true love was service," said Geert Schmid-Schoenbein, UC San Diego professor of bioengineering, and colleague and friend to Zweifach. "He was an unassuming individual who had a sense of reality that was higher than that of others. His judgment was unerring. He established a remarkable record of over 64 years of active research and teaching in the field of microcirculation."

Zweifach was born in New York City. He received a B.S. degree in biology from the College of the City of New York in 1931 and earned M.S. (1933) and Ph.D. (1936) degrees in cellular physiology from New York University. Prior to his appointment with UC San Diego, he held faculty positions at Cornell Medical School (1947-1952), and New York University (1952-1966).

Zweifach was a pioneer in understanding disease by studying the microcirculation--blood flow through the small blood vessels. During World War II, he studied physiological shock and clarified the mechanisms that precipitate multiple organ failure in shock and discovered several ways to improve an animal's tolerance to shock. His work was especially important in emergency medicine.

After he had established a successful career in physiology and pathology and won one of the highest honors in the field, the Claude Bernard Medal in Physiology, Zweifach made a major shift in his career. He joined UC San Diego in 1966, and helped establish the bioengineering program, which is now ranked among the top programs of its kind in the nation. He was also a leader in the field of bioengineering. He brought together physiologists, engineers and mathematicians and took full advantage of these disciplines in order to develop new research techniques and to study problems of the microcirculation.

Zweifach was the foremost investigator of the mechanical properties of blood vessels, the anatomy of vessels in different tissues, and the flow properties of blood in microvessels. Together with his students, he discovered mechanisms that lead to the failure of the microcirculation in diseases such as ischemia, diabetes, and inflammation. His discoveries are used today to develop new drugs for better treatment. He developed systematic procedures to study fluid exchange between blood vessels and the tissue. He carried out pioneering research on lymphatic structure and identified basic lymph pump mechanisms. He documented the involvement of the microcirculation in hypertension. Zweifach also emphasized early the importance of the endothelium (blood vessel wall) in health and disease, a subject that receives word-wide attention today. Shortly before his death he helped uncover how mechanical properties impact and change circulating leukocytes, which is likely to fundamentally improve the understanding of immunology and hematology.

His work is documented in more than 300 research papers, teaching films, and numerous proceedings and abstracts. His writing is universally accepted and is standard knowledge in medical textbooks.

Zweifach was a member of numerous medical and engineering societies and received many awards and honors in recognition of his achievements. He was a founding member of the Microcirculation Society and served as its president in 1975. In 1972, he was awarded the society's highest distinction, the E.M. Landis Award. The Microcirculation Society also established the Zweifach Gold Medal Award in 1982, which is issued every four years to one individual for outstanding research in the field.

He became the honorary president of the International Institute for Microcirculation in Uppsala Sweden in 1983, and was named an honorary member of the British Microcirculatory Society and the Society for Leukocyte Biology. Zweifach was the founding editor of the Journal of Microvascular Research, for which he worked ceaselessly for the past 30 years.

Zweifach's remarkable contributions to the field of microcirculation are widely acknowledged by his colleagues throughout the world.

Zweifach is survived by his wife of 59 years, Beatrice of La Jolla, Calif.; two daughters Paula Weinberger of San Rafael, Calif. and Marilyn Zweifach of Los Angeles; son Mark Zweifach of Encinitas, Calif.; three brothers, Louis Zweifach of Hackensack, New Jersey, Herman Zweifach of Laguna Hills, Calif., and Bernard Zweifach of Brooklyn, New York; and three grandchildren Cyrus, Daniel and Abigail.

A memorial service will be held at the University of California, San Diego on Friday, January 9, 1998, at 2:30 p.m. For details, please call the Department of Bioengineering at (619) 534-4272. The family requests that donations be sent in lieu of flowers to: the Mount Scopus Hadassah A.R.C., 5755 Oberlin Dr., San Diego, CA 92121; or to the Zweifach Distinguished Lecture Fund, Department of Bioengineering, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0412.

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