Ernst A. Noltmann, Biochemistry: Riverside
Ernst August Noltmann was born on June 27, 1931 in Gotha, Germany. Ernst's lifelong dedication was to the basic aspects of medical sciences and in particular the biochemistry and enzymology of the glycolytic pathway, where he focused on the enzyme phosphoglucose isomerase. For his university studies, Ernst graduated from the Oberschule in Versmold in 1950 with a degree of “abitur” and then attended in 1950-53 the University of Münster where he received the degree “physikum” for his major in premedical sciences. Next he attended first the University of Freiburg (1953-54) and then the University of Düsseldorf (1954-56) from which he received his M.D. degree.
Early in his university life, Ernst gravitated towards basic biomedical research. This led him in 1956-59 to affiliation with the laboratory of H.F. Bruns in the Institute of Physiological Chemistry at Dusseldorf and here he published a series of papers on phosphoglucomutase, phosphomannose-isomerase, as well as phosphoglucose isomerase. In 1959, Ernst emigrated to the U.S. and joined the Enzyme Institute at the University of Wisconsin where he initiated a three-year collaboration with Stephen A. Kuby. Here he honed his skills in basic enzymology, focusing on glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, ATP-AMP-transphosphorylase (myokinase), and ATP-creatine-transphosphorylase (creatine kinase).
In 1962 Ernst Noltmann affiliated with the new Department of Biochemistry on the Riverside campus of the University of California and started his professorial career. He rose through the ranks quickly and was named professor of biochemistry in 1969. Noltmann also served as acting chairman of the Department of Biochemistry in 1971-72 and as departmental chairman in 1975-76. In 1971 Ernst and his wife became American citizens.
His research career at UCR was largely dedicated to the biochemical and physical characterization of a key enzyme in glycolysis, phosphoglucose
― 215 ―isomerase as well as its compatriot phosphomannose isomerase. He and his students and postdoctoral researchers isolated, purified, and crystallized three isoenzymes of phosphoglucoisomerase and determined the number of sulfhydryl groups, the effect of pH and temperature on their kinetic parameters, and proposed a molecular mechanism for the catalytic event. In his later career he and his students discovered a unique form of carbonic anhydrase that is present in muscle. A uniform tenet of his approach to science was rigor and precision. This was a philosophy that he instilled in the 12 Ph.D. students and 10 postdoctorals affiliated with his laboratory.
Beginning in 1972, Noltmann made an invaluable additional contribution to the Riverside campus; at the time he accepted a position of leadership in the development of the UCR/UCLA Program in Biomedical Sciences. This program was formally initiated in 1974. The program is an accelerated track for the acquisition of the combined B.S. degree with a major in biomedical sciences from UC Riverside and the M.D. degree from UCLA in a seven-year period of time. This innovative Program in Biomedical Sciences has played an immeasurable role on the Riverside campus both in terms of the addition to the UCR faculty ranks of a dedicated core of 15 faculty members who focus on the complete spectrum of research interests in the biomedical sciences as well as the recruitment of superior students to the program. From 1974 to 1985, 128 students who began in the program as freshman undergraduates at UC Riverside graduated with the M.D. degree from the UCLA School of Medicine. In 1985 Professor Noltmann was honored on the 10th anniversary of the UCR/UCLA Biomedical Sciences Program as the Founding director with the citation “you have provided the leadership which has helped the Program achieve national recognition, in 10 short years, for its contribution to medical sciences education. UCR will be forever in your debt.” Certainly the scientific community of biomedical scientists on the Riverside campus will be forever indebted to Ernst's dedication to excellence and thoroughness of medical education.
Dr. Noltmann was a kind, unselfish and most responsible member of the complete University community extending from the Department of Biochemistry, the Division of Biomedical Sciences, through his other administrative responsibilities on the Riverside and UCLA campuses. He had the utmost concern for detail, organization and thoughtfulness. During the last five years of his life he had the additional burden of dealing with his personal health problems. Although it is clear in retrospect that this was a very disruptive interval--he did not let his personal problems interfere with his true love of the pursuit of science, the encouragement and training of young scientists and leadership of the Division of
― 216 ―Biomedical Sciences. Ernst is survived by his wife Lisel and their two sons, Ingo and Udo.
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