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Jacob Joseph Blum, a James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of Physiology at Duke University who immersed himself in many areas of inquiry, died Aug. 16 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He was 95 years old. His family confirmed the death, saying his spirits remained high, but his physical health deteriorated after several bad falls over the past year.

Dr. Blum taught in Duke’s Department of Physiology (later renamed the Department of Cell Biology) and conducted experiments in his laboratory at Duke Medical Center. Although most physiologists focus on one area throughout their careers, he began studying the metabolic pathways of cilia and flagella in the four-membrane protozoa Tetrahymena and ventured into cat vision, l hearing of bats and E.coli in the livers of rats and the tongues of frogs before imposing itself as leishmaniac (name given to observers of the parasitic species protozoan Leishmania donovani).

Two decades after beginning his laboratory experimentation, Dr. Blum also undertook theoretical research in collaboration with Duke Professor of Mathematics Michael Reed. The duo explored the biochemistry of pituitary cells and the organization of the auditory brainstem, among other topics.

“Joe was deeply committed to understanding human physiology and saw early on that math and calculus would help,” Reed said of his 19-year-old collaborator. “He brought rigor, creativity and penetrating intelligence to his science and mathematics.” Dr. Blum has published over 250 articles in peer-reviewed journals and books. Yet the scope of his knowledge extended far beyond science. He read widely in literature, history, art and religion and, although he declared himself deaf, he was always a lover of music.

Its illumination would come to fashion a bastion of campus. In the mid-1960s, when Duke Medical Center was about to construct a new science building, Dr. Blum was made aware of the plans. No window was provided. Having suffered sun deprivation at the Naval Medical Resident Center in Bethesda, he has now sought out quotes from Shakespeare and the Bible to build his case.

Natural light, he argued, was essential to the creative thinking involved in science: inspiration took illumination. The cultural omnivore presented his case at the next faculty meeting. He woke humanity from the powers that be – and the Nanaline Duke Building got its windows. “That was my greatest contribution to Duke and to science,” he said at his retirement party.

Jacob Joseph Blum was born on October 3, 1926 in Brooklyn. Her Ukrainian-born father, Paul, was a furrier whose neighborhood clothing store Joe helped out. His mother, Anna (Braun) Blum, from Poland, stayed home to raise three children.

Joe, also known affectionately as Jay and JJ, enlisted in 1944 in the United States Army, which assigned him to a team of electrical engineers who worked on radio communication systems during World War II. . After his military service, he majored in chemistry at New York University, thanks to the GI Bill of Rights. His father wanted him to become a doctor, but he was drawn to scientific research instead. Joe received his bachelor’s degree in 1947 and planned to pursue higher education. At the University of Chicago, he earned an M.Sc. in 1950 and a Ph.D. in physiology in 1952. He pursued postdoctoral work at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena with double Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling.

Other early stints included service on the staff of the Naval Medical Research Institute at Bethesda (1953-1956), teaching as an assistant professor at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and serving as chief of the biophysics section in the gerontology branch of the National Institutes of Health in Baltimore (1958-1962). Duke University recruited Dr. Blum in 1962 and endowed him with a post chaired by James B. Duke in 1980.

Other honors and appointments include: Merck Postdoctoral Fellow (1952); Guggenheim Fellow (1969); Senior International Scholar Fogarty (1992); president of the American Physiological Society, Society Protozoologists (1991). He retired from Duke in 1997.

Dr. Blum protested against segregation in the South throughout the sixties. Already on his first day at Duke, he tore down signs indicating “white” and “colored” bathrooms, risking his new place at an institution that had a quota on Jewish faculty. In 1964, he bailed out fellow Duke scientist Peter Klopfer, who was imprisoned for participating in a civil rights protest at a local restaurant.

Later in the decade, Dr. Blum led seminars critical of the Vietnam War. He was also long active in bringing Soviet scientists to the United States and rallying support for Israel. His moral compass did not stop at political activism. He had compassion for all walks of life and exuded warmth and humor to anyone within earshot. Tributes from peers, friends, community admirers and family members praised his legendary love of laughter which touched the lives of so many he loved and loved him so dearly in return .

JJ has been married twice. He is survived by his two sons, Mark (Duke BA ’75) and Douglas; two daughters, Lisa and Laura (Duke BA ’79); six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren; one brother, Harold P. Blum; and a sister, Roslyn Goldner.