Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center

In Memoriam: William R. Markesbery, M.D.

June 15, 2010


Dr. William Markesbery

William R. Markesbery, M.D., who for more than 30 years was director of the University of Kentucky (UK) Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, died January 30, 2010, at age 77, in Lexington, KY. Dr. Markesbery led the UK Sanders-Brown Center on Aging from its founding in 1979 and was director of its Alzheimer's Disease Center. He also held the Commonwealth Chair in Aging and was professor of neurology, pathology, neurosurgery, and anatomy and neurobiology at the UK College of Medicine.

Dr. Markesbery's studies of Alzheimer's disease received continuous NIH support for almost 30 years. He is credited with more than 410 peer-reviewed scientific publications and received numerous awards recognizing his work to find a cure for and prevention of Alzheimer's disease. The Journal of Alzheimer's Disease rated him among the top researchers in the world for the productivity and impact of his scientific study of Alzheimer's disease.

From 1969 to 1972, Dr. Markesbery served as a faculty member at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NY. In 1972, he returned to UK and began his longtime career as a clinician and researcher. In addition to his College of Medicine appointments, Markesbery was a consultant in neurology and neuropathology at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Lexington.

In 1974, he was the first to describe a rare form of heredity muscular dystrophy, now called Finnish-Markesbery Disease. In 1981, Markesbery and colleagues published one of several studies disproving the once-popular theory that an accumulation of toxic metals, such as aluminum, plays a role in the development of Alzheimer's disease. In 1991, they published the first study to demonstrate that oxidative stress is an important part of the pathogenesis of late-onset Alzheimer's disease and is present early in the disease.

Dr. Markesbery received the Alzheimer's Association Khachaturian Award in 2009 for Outstanding Achievements in Advancing Alzheimer's Science.

"Throughout his education and career, Bill Markesbery demonstrated his love for the University of Kentucky and his passion for Alzheimer's disease research," said Dr. Marcelle Morrison-Bogorad, director of NIA's Division of Neuroscience. "Without the work of leaders like him, our understanding of aging and Alzheimer's disease would not be where it is. We deeply appreciate Bill's contributions. He was a truly remarkable, dedicated professional whose work improved the quality of life for older Americans of this and future generations."

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