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 June 8, 2020

In Remembrance of John Kanwisher

John Kanwisher passed away on May 7, 2020. He was an alumnus of the Institute, graduating in 1947 after an accelerated undergraduate program and service in the US Navy during World War II. He earned a PhD in biophysics from the University of Rochester in 1951 and went on to a career and a life full of adventure, discovery, and invention.

John’s daughter Nancy Kanwisher, an accomplished cognitive neuroscientist and professor at MIT, authored an extraordinary memorial of her father in The Scientist.

As Nancy wrote, “He coinvented the first electronically controlled diving rebreather, measured the first electrocardiogram from a whale, and played a central role in transforming the study of animal physiology from the lab to the wild through the use of telemetry devices he invented.”

Typical of Institute alumni, John’s associations made in Rochester followed him through life. He was lifelong friends with fellow optics alumni Dow Smith and Walter Seigmund, both highly accomplished, highly regarded members of our community and both exemplars of the Institute alumni who gave back to the discipline through their work and their service to others. Nancy communicated that “The Seigmund and Kanwisher and Smith families spent New Years’ Eve together every year for many decades.” Oh, to have been a fly on the wall for those gatherings!