Dr. Denham Harman, the driving force behind the founding of the American Aging Association (AGE) and a famed scientist who developed the Free Radical Theory of Aging, has died in Omaha, Nebraska. He was 98.
Dr. Harman incorporated AGE in Omaha, Nebraska in 1970 and served as its first president. Harman served on the faculty of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha for 52 years before stepping down in 2010.
Nominated six times for the Nobel Prize, Harman theorized that free radicals – highly reactive molecules freed in the normal chemical processes – cause aging and disease through their destructive actions in cells and tissues. The theory, first proposed in 1954, was ridiculed and dismissed by many in the scientific community, but gained support in the 1960s with other scientists.
Quoted in an obituary in the Omaha World-Herald, David Sinclair, professor at Harvard Medical School and a leading expert in aging said, “If we are able to extend human lifespan it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants like Dr. Harman.”
“We are saddened to hear of Dr. Harman’s passing,” said James Nelson, PhD, AGE President and a professor at the Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies in San Antonio, Texas. “At the same time we continue to be inspired by his passion, dedication, generosity and humility. His legacy lives on in laboratories around the world.” Harman engaged in research until he retired in 2010. AGE established the annual Denham Harman Research Award in 1978 to honor researchers who make significant contributions to biomedical aging research.