Harry Dickson Patton
Harry D. Patton, PhD, MD, chair of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Washington from 1966 until 1983, passed away on May 26, 2002. "Pat," as he was known affectionately to his colleagues, joined the new department in 1947 as one of its first members, appointed by T. C. Ruch, the founding chair. Hailing from Arkansas, Pat had just received his MD and PhD under Ruch at Yale University. Harry Patton was broadly experienced in a neurophysiological tradition that could be traced back another 50 years to Sir Charles Sherrington, combining masterful surgery with electrophysiology. After a thesis on the neurophysiology of taste, he turned to study visceral nerves, the pyramidal tract, the regulation of the pituitary, and with Walter Woodbury was one of the first to make intracellular studies of spinal neurons. Much of his energy focused on teaching of medical students and graduate students, and he was a prolific writer of teacherly treatises. From 1946 to 1989, he was editor and a major contributor to many editions of the widely used Ruch & Patton textbook Physiology and Biophysics. He also coauthored the text Introduction to Basic Neurology. Both books called on the expertise of the faculty of his department.
When not scientifically engaged, Pat enjoyed building furniture and musical instruments in his carpentry shop. He was a talented guitarist who entertained friends and neighbors with a vast repertoire of folk tunes and sea chanteys. In the summers, Captain Patton skippered his boat through the Inland Passage along the coast of British Columbia. Harry Patton was the embodiment of a true gentleman and a scholar. He cared about people and his colleagues cared about him. He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Barbara Patton, and two daughters, Ann and Betsy.