In Memory of Howard Berg 1934 - 2021

January 3, 2022
photo of Howard Berg

Howard Berg, who was a Senior Fellow at the Rowland and a faculty member in Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University passed away on December 30, 2021.

Howard was appointed as a Senior Fellow by Dr. Edwin Land, the founder of the Rowland Institute, based on their shared interest in using physics as a lens to understand how organisms perceive their surroundings. In Dr. Land’s case, the organisms were humans and the perception was sight; for Howard, the organisms were bacteria and the perception was smell, or more precisely, the concentration of molecules they were attracted to or repelled from. Howard built a specialized tracking microscope that could follow bacteria as they swam up gradients of attractants. He showed that they achieved this feat by controlling their swimming depending on whether the concentration of an attractant was rising, which meant they were swimming up the gradient, or falling, which meant they were swimming away from the source of the attractant.

Howard was associated with the Rowland Institute for more than 30 years, he played an active part in its intellectual community, and the elegance and rigor of his science was an inspiration to the other Fellows and staff of the Institute.

The Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology is making plans for a memorial to celebrate Howard's life and legacy.