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J. Murray Luck, 93, founder of Annual Reviews, died last week
STANFORD -- J. Murray Luck, professor emeritus of chemistry at Stanford University and founder of Annual Reviews, died of pneumonia at his home in Menlo Park Thursday, Aug. 26. He would have been 94 this Oct. 23.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 8, at the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church.
Luck was the second oldest emeritus professor at Stanford, and the longest-serving faculty member. His career at the university began in 1926.
A former science attache to the U.S. Embassy in Switzerland, Luck also was the leading English-language historian of Switzerland, and the publisher of three books on the country.
He launched the Annual Review of Biochemistry at Stanford in 1932, and founded Annual Reviews Inc., a nonprofit enterprise devoted to the advancement of science through publication of critical reviews and analyses of the rapidly expanding volume of scientific research literature.
Luck was born in Paris, Ontario, in 1899, the youngest child of a blacksmith who later became a workman in an implement factory. After completing high school, Luck was awarded a four-year scholarship to the University of Toronto.
Another scholarship provided for several years of graduate work in biochemistry at Cambridge University in England, where he earned a doctorate. Later, he returned to Toronto for a year as a demonstrator in biochemistry before coming to Stanford.
"It was wonderful," he once said. "When I was in England and thinking about the future, there were really only two places in the United States that I considered: Cornell and Stanford. I didn't want to go to any university that was in the heart of an industrial city."
For the next four decades, Luck taught biochemistry to Stanford medical students as well as advanced courses for graduate students, first at the medical school in San Francisco, and later on the Palo Alto campus when the medical school was moved. His specialty was in the role of proteins in carcinogenesis. He did most of his work in the basement of the Old Main Chemistry Building (closed since 1989 because of the Loma Prieta earthquake).
He published more than 200 scientific papers.
His first book, War on Malnutrition and Poverty was published in 1945.
Shortly before he retired in 1965, he was sent as an attache to Berne, Switzerland, where he served for two years. He wrote a book on Science in Switzerland in 1967, and later Modern Switzerland.
In 1985, he topped it all with History of Switzerland: The First Hundred Thousand Years; From Before the Beginnings to the Days of the Present, the definitive history of that country in English.
Through his life he spent considerable time in Switzerland with his wife, Eroeda, who was born in Manchuria of Russian parents. Luck spoke fluent Russian and was literate in several other languages.
Luck was founding editor of Annual Reviews of Biochemistry in 1931, a collection of articles in the field written by experts. This was expanded to Annual Reviews of Physiology in 1939, and then into other fields. In 1932, he founded Annual Reviews Inc., a nonprofit enterprise to manage the publications. Today, Annual Reviews are published in 26 fields of study in the physical, biological, behavioral and biomedical sciences.
The editorial offices were originally located in the physiology department building on the Outer Quad, just to the right of the main quad, where Computer Science now is located. The offices were moved off- campus in the 1950s, and Annual Reviews now are based in Palo Alto.
Luck served as editor-in-chief and secretary-treasurer of Annual Reviews Inc., from 1939 to 1969, and then was on the board of directors - most recently as an emeritus member.
"Annual Reviews truly is a lasting legacy," said chemistry professor Richard Zare at a celebration of Luck's 90th birthday. "It is a fantastic nonprofit organization that does a wonderful job of focusing people's attention on the new problems to be looked at. These reviews are nearly at the top in terms of the number of times they are cited. Per dollar, they are the best bargain in the business."
Luck also was known locally for his annual survey of the cost of a balanced diet, taken from the 1950s to the 1960s. He based the survey on the cost of a standardized group of selected food items bought at local markets. The results were published annually in the local press.
He was a founder of the Palo Alto Co-op, a chain of consumer-owned grocery stores that once numbered as many as six, and the Ladera cooperative housing development.
In 1976, at the age of 76, he founded The Society for the Promotion of Science and Scholarship, a nonprofit corporation for scholarly publishing, with special interests in British and European studies.
Friends of the Lucks annually gathered at their house for the celebration of Russian Orthodox Easter, a tradition of long-standing.
Friends said he was lucid and brightly aware until his death. He had been working on a book of reminiscences to be passed down to his grandchildren.
Luck spoke of book in a 1989 interview: "I'm doing it because I have the feeling that if they can arrange it, it's a good thing for parents to have something ready that they can pass on to their children that describes the ancestors of the family and their activities as the parents and grandparents knew them. I was always sorry that I never learned very much about the family from my own parents."
Luck is survived by his wife, two children, Edward E. Luck and Nadya L. O'Connell, and three grandchildren.
Annual Reviews Inc., has established a fund in memory of Luck for international cooperation in education and research, and the family requests that contributions be made to that fund.
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