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Mark Nickerson (1916 - 1998)

Mark Nickerson, perhaps the most eminent pharmacologist of the twentieth century, was a professor of pharmacology and therapeutics at McGill University. He joined the faculty at McGill in 1967, where he chaired his department from 1967 to 1975. He also held academic positions at the University of Manitoba, the University of Michigan, and the University of Utah. Professor Nickerson died on March 12, 1998, in Ottawa, Canada, where he had moved after his retirement.

Professor Nickerson made major contributions to the field of pharmacology, in part through his seminal research on the adrenergic blocking drugs that are used to treat high blood pressure and other major medical disorders. He was awarded the John Jacob Abel Award in Pharmacology in 1949 and served as president both of the Pharmacological Society of Canada and of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. He chaired the Canadian Federation of Biological Sciences and was the author of more than 250 scientific publications.

Mark Nickerson was born on October22, 1916, in Montevideo, Minnesota, the eldest child of Mark Nickerson and Ada Honey. Professor Nickerson graduated summa cum laude from Linfield College, earned his Sc.M. from Brown University, his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University and an M.D. from the University of Utah.

In 1954, Mark Nickerson was an associate professor of pharmacology at the University of Michigan, with tenure. He was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee and chose to invoke the Fifth Amendment in response to the Committee’s questions. He was immediately suspended by the University as a result. Professor Nickerson’s reinstatement was supported by the Faculty Senate but not by his departmental chairman or by the dean and the executive committee of the Medical School. He was subsequently dismissed from the University despite his tenured appointment.

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