John L. Neumeyer, PhD, who worked as director of Medicinal Chemistry at McLean Hospital for 24 years until his retirement two years ago, passed away on Thursday, February 16. He was 92.
Neumeyer escaped Nazi Germany with his mother and sister at the age of nine, just before the start of World War II. Soon after arriving in the United States in 1945, Neumeyer was orphaned at the age of 15.
A gifted student, he graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1948 and Columbia University in 1952.
He served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War from 1953 to 1955 and earned his doctorate in medicinal chemistry from the University of Wisconsin in 1961.
Neumeyer’s career-long research led to better understanding of neurological diseases. He also held many public service positions, including state and national advisory committees, professional boards, and the Eagle Scout (Queen’s Badge).
A distinguished academic with a kind heart and keen sense of humor, Neumeyer held a visiting scientist appointment at McLean beginning in 1985 and joined the McLean staff as director of Medical Chemistry in 1996.
He collaborated on hundreds of scientific publications, many with Ross J. Baldessarini, MD, director of McLean’s International Consortium for Bipolar and Psychotic Disorders Research.
Neumeyer was also a dedicated teacher and mentor at McLean. He supervised and mentored 16 post-doctoral fellows and visiting scientists during his tenure, including many from abroad.
Neumeyer was a gracious colleague, a beloved professor, and a generous friend. He also was a consummate scientist who thoroughly enjoyed his work and his collegial relationships, first at Northeastern University and later at McLean Hospital.
Innovative as well as enterprising, his numerous accomplishments ranged from the development of novel packaging to permit easy sterilization of suture material—an invention which is still in use today—to the creation and direction of Northeastern’s thriving PhD program in medicinal chemistry, and, in his later years at McLean, to the synthesis and development of highly promising radiotracer neurochemicals to identify and monitor the progression of Parkinson’s disease.
His crowning achievement was the development of DATscan, a SPECT radiotracer that is used clinically to aid in the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.
During his distinguished career, Neumeyer also founded and successfully operated Research Biochemicals Inc., later purchased by Sigma Aldrich, to address the need for a reliable commercial source of psychoactive compounds for psychopharmacology and neuroscience research.
As with his own accomplishments in the laboratory, Neumeyer derived great satisfaction from being able to provide these tools for research to his scientific community.
A funeral service at Temple Shir Tikva and burial in North Cemetery, both in Wayland, Massachusetts, were held on Sunday, February 19.