Bob Shapiro Passes Away at Age 75

Posted: 6/16/11

ET.jpgWe are much saddened at the news of the passing of Professor Emeritus Robert Shapiro on June 15, 2011, at age 75, after a courageous battle with cancer.  This was  Professor Shapiro's 50th year with the New York University Department of Chemistry.  When students, faculty, and staff honored him at the 2011 graduation ceremony, which he was unable to attend, the crowd celebrated his years of service, unaware that we would never see him again.

Bob Shapiro was born on November 28, 1935 in New York City and obtained a BS in chemistry, summa cum laude (1956) from the City College of New York.  He received a PhD degree book2.jpgin organic chemistry from Harvard, under the supervision of Nobel Laureate R.B. Woodward (1959), and conducted postdoctoral training in DNA chemistry at Cambridge with Nobel Laureate Lord Todd (1959-1960). After an additional year of postdoctoral study at the NYU Medical School, he joined the faculty of the NYU Chemistry Department in 1961.  He held a Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Health and was awarded (with physicist Paul Davies) the Trotter Prize in Complexity, Information and Inference in 2004.

book1.jpgBob authored over 125 publications, primarily in the area of DNA chemistry, and in the origin of life. In particular, he and his co-workers studied the ways in which environmental chemicals can damage our hereditary material, causing changes that can lead to mutations and cancer.  In addition to his research, he wrote four books and several magazine articles for the general public.  He was writing even as his life was ending, and his book review to appear posthumously in Nature is testimony to his dedication to productivity, to science, and to life.

Bob is survived by his wife Sandra and son Michael.

For more about Bob's life and research, see his department webpage at and his personal webpage at  For an obituary written by his long-time colleagues Nicholas Geacintov (NYU Chemistry) and Suse Broyde (NYU Biology), see the October 31, 2011 issue of the ACS Journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.

Updated on 02/20/2013