LOS ANGELES -- Daniel E. Koshland Jr., the molecular biologist who revised scientists' ideas on how enzymes work, remodeled the biology department at the University of California, Berkeley into one of the nation's best and, as editor, refashioned Science into one of the leading scientific journals in the world, died Monday at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Walnut Creek, Calif., after a stroke. He was 87.
"Dan Koshland was a rare bird," said Nobel laureate Joseph L. Goldstein of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. "His career in science was exemplified by a distinction achieved by only a handful of scientists who are held in universally high esteem by their colleagues because of their human qualities of honesty, kindness, unselfishness, originality, and wisdom. And in Dan's case, there was also wit."
An heir to the Levi Strauss jeans fortune, Dr. Koshland probably also was one of the wealthiest academic scientists, with a net worth estimated by Forbes magazine at nearly $800 million in 1997. But he spread his wealth liberally, with donations to fund a science museum in Washington, D.C., named after his late wife; a new science center at Haverford College in Pennsylvania where his sons studied; a science library at Berkeley; and a fellowship program at the Weizmann Institute; among others.
Members of his family, he said, "were told we were extremely lucky and had an obligation to share the benefit of our education and our wealth with others," he said in an interview in the Jewish Bulletin.
As a newly minted, 31-year-old PhD, Dr. Koshland struggled with finding a job before landing in the biology department at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, N.Y., in 1951. The problem was that he was a biochemist in an era when traditional biologists ruled the roost, and his specialty made him an odd duck at Brookhaven.
Dr. Koshland's work suggested that enzymes sometimes had to change their shape to accommodate the chemicals and that this shape change could be part of the catalytic reaction. He called it the "induced fit theory," and after the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences accepted the paper, it was a full decade before other scientists recognized its validity.
After what he intended to be a one-year stint at Brookhaven turned into 14, Dr. Koshland and his wife, Marian, an immunologist, were offered positions at Berkeley in 1965. In recent years, Dr. Koshland was a leader of the campus' $400 million Health Sciences Initiative, arguing for the need to renew campus infrastructure to support scientific research. In 1992, Berkeley honored him by naming a new biology research building Koshland Hall.
In 1984, he was named editor of Science, which Goldstein described as "a good, but stodgy, journal."
His emphasis on scientific news made the journal a must-read not only for researchers, but also for stockbrokers, businesspeople, legislators, and their staffs. "All I have to do is say something unflattering about a congressman, and I get a phone call from him," he said.
Dr. Koshland, born in New York City in 1920, developed an interest in science in the eighth grade when he read "Microbe Hunters" by Paul de Kruif and "Arrowsmith" by Sinclair Lewis. Fascinated, he took all the courses in science and mathematics available at his high school.
In 1998, he received the Albert Lasker Award for Special Achievement in Medical Science in recognition of his lifelong contributions to medical science. The Lasker award is often considered a precursor to the Nobel Prize. He also received several other awards..
Following Marian's death, he reconnected with Yvonne Cyr San Jule, whom he first met in 1940 while they were undergraduates in a Berkeley bacteriology course. They were married in August 2000.
In addition to his wife, Dr. Koshland leaves two sons, James of Atherton, Calif., and Douglas of Baltimore; three daughters, Ellen Koshland of Melbourne, Australia, Phyllis Koshland of Paris, and Gail Koshland of Tucson; two sisters, Francis K. Geballe of Woodside, Calif., and Phyllis K. Friedman of Hillsborough, Calif.; nine grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter; three stepchildren; 12 stepgrandchildren, and 17 stepgreat-grandchildren.