Alfred Alberts, Unsung Father of a Cholesterol Drug, Dies at 87


When the doctor was arranging for Mr. Alberts to be taken to the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora by a medevac helicopter, he told the doctors there that Mr. Alberts had discovered lovastatin.

And when Mr. Alberts arrived in Aurora, the medical personnel there greeted him like a celebrity. “People wanted his autograph,” his wife said.

Alfred William Alberts was born in Manhattan on May 16, 1931, and grew up in Brooklyn, attending Erasmus Hall High School and Brooklyn College. He was 21 when he met Helene Cuba, who was 17, on a blind date. Both were the only children of divorced parents. They married two years later.

After a stint in the Army, Mr. Alberts was accepted into a Ph.D. program at the University of Kansas, in Lawrence. But Ms. Alberts, who had accompanied him, came to feel isolated in northeast Kansas, and two years later Mr. Alberts transferred to the University of Maryland to finish his doctorate in cell biology.

While there, Ms. Alberts said, his financial support from the G.I. Bill ran out, and he needed money to support his family.

One day, at the end of a biochemistry course, the professor, Earl Stadtman, a biochemist at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., asked his students, “Does anybody need a job?” If so, he said, see him.

Mr. Alberts leapt at the opportunity. He abandoned the Ph.D. program, even though he had done all the required research and had only to write a dissertation, and took a job as a lab technician at the Institutes. He assumed he would be working with his revered professor, Dr. Stadtman. Instead, in 1959, he ended up working for Dr. Vagelos, who taught him biochemistry.


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