Remembering Harold Papkoff, biochemist and comparative endocrinologist

Harold Papkoff, Ph.D., was a professor of experimental endocrinology and of obstetrics, gynecology & reproductive sciences at UCSF.

Harold Papkoff. Credit: J. S. Papkoff

Harold Papkoff, Ph.D., professor emeritus, UCSF

June 11, 1925 – June 8, 2021

Harold Papkoff, Ph.D., an accomplished biochemist and comparative endocrinologist, passed away at his longtime home in El Cerrito at the age of 95. He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Lillian, and their two daughters, Jacqueline and Jessica.

Harold was born in San Jose, California, the second youngest of five boys. He graduated from San Jose High School in 1943, enlisted in the United States Army and was assigned to the 75th Infantry Division deployed in the European Theater of Operations during World War II. After the war Harold attended UC Berkeley where he received his bachelor’s degree and subsequently his doctorate in biochemistry in 1957.

From 1957 until retirement in 1991 he rose through the ranks as a member of the Hormone Research Laboratory (UCB/UCSF) and became professor of experimental endocrinology and professor of obstetrics, gynecology & reproductive sciences at the University of California, San Francisco. As a leader in the field of comparative endocrinology Harold published extensively on his original scientific research along with book chapters and review articles. He was recognized by his peers with numerous invited lectures and awards, including the Ayerst Award for distinguished service in endocrinology of the Endocrine Society and the Carl G. Hartman Award, the highest award presented by the Society for the Study of Reproduction. Harold was devoted to teaching and mentoring junior scientists and was an admired, well-loved colleague with a great wit.

Harold enjoyed exploring new places, interesting cuisines and meeting people. Although he traveled the world during his scientific career, he loved to spend time at home working in the yard, reading, or sharing good food, wine and conversation with family and friends. He was well known in his local community and always a pleasure to interact with. Harold’s gentle, curious spirit, generosity, sense of humor and fierce independence will be greatly missed.