Henry de Forest Webster
Henry de Forest Webster, PhD, a retired neuroscientist, died at home in Cockeysville, Md. on Nov. 16, 2012.
Born on April 22, 1927 in New York City, Dr. Webster obtained his undergraduate degree in 1948 from Amherst College. He graduated from Harvard University’s Medical School in 1952. Following his internship and residency at the Boston City Hospital from 1952 to 1954, he was a resident in neurology at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston from 1954 to 1956. He was a research fellow in neuropathology at the same hospital from 1956 to 1959.
Dr. Webster taught at Harvard Medical School from 1959 to 1966 and at the University of Miami Medical School from 1966 to 1969, while simultaneously doing research at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. He started working at the National Institutes of Health in 1969 when he became Chief of Section on Cellular Neuropathology at the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke. Dr. Webster was appointed Chief of the Institute’s Laboratory of Experimental Neuropathology in 1984 and held that position until 1997. He was a scientist emeritus at the National Institutes of Health from 1997 to 2009.
The nervous system and how its malfunctioning causes carious diseases was Dr. Webster’s area of research. He focused on the breakdown of the nervous system’s myelin sheath to gain a better understanding of the process. His work advanced knowledge of the causes and spread of multiple sclerosis and the development of potential means of treating it. He was also a pioneer in developing and using electron microscopic methods to study normal and diseased cells of the nervous system.
Dr. Webster authored and co-authored several books, including three editions of The Fine Structure of the Nervous System, a reference work in the field. He also wrote and contributed to many scientific articles and reviews in professional journals and books. He received numerous awards and honors, amoung them the U.S. Public Health Service’s Superior Service Award in 1977, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s Senior U.S. Scientist Award in 1985 to do research in Germany with German scientists, and the American Association of Neuropathologist’s Meritorious Contributions to Neuropathology Award in 2001. He was also an honorary member of the International Society of Neuropathology and the Japanese Society of Neuropathology. Dr. Webster was named an Honorary Professor at the Norman Bethune University of Medical Sciences in Chanchun, China in 1991.
Dr. Webster’s wife of more than 60 years, Marion Havas Webster, died on Feb. 23, 2012. Their survivors include five children and six grandchildren.