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Nutritional biochemist Don Zilversmit dies at age 91

Nutritional biochemist Donald Zilversmit, professor emeritus of nutritional sciences at Cornell and an expert on the relationship between diet and cardiovascular disease, died Sept. 16 at age 91 surrounded by his three daughters in Canton, Mass.

Zilversmit was known for his scientific contributions in better understanding atherogenesis, including basic mechanisms in lipid transport and exchange.

Born in 1919 in Hengelo, Netherlands, Zilversmit began his studies at Utrecht University in Holland but left just prior to the invasion by the Germans during World War II. He came to the United States in 1939 to study at the University of California-Berkeley but decided to join the Dutch Canadian Army as a medic in 1940, the year he earned his B.S. Following his service in the Army, Zilversmit earned his Ph.D. at Berkeley in 1948 and joined the faculty at the University of Tennessee Medical College in Memphis.

In 1966 Zilversmit joined the Cornell faculty and remained until retirement in 1990 at the age of 70.

Among his many honors, he was awarded the prestigious Career Investigator Award from the American Heart Association, an honorary degree from Utrecht University and election to the National Academy of Sciences. He was the author or co-author of more than 300 publications.

Zilversmit was preceded in death by his wife of 63 years, Kitty, who died in May 2009; he is survived by three daughters, five grandchildren and two great-grand children.

The family intends to have a private memorial service for Zilversmit this summer in Ithaca. In lieu of flowers contributions can be made in his name to the American Heart Association.

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John Carberry