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23 February 2015

In Memorium: Collegium Ramazzini Fellow Maths Berlin (1932-2015)

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Collegium Ramazzini Fellow, Professor emeritus MD, PhD Maths Berlin on January 26, 2015 at the age of 83.

Maths Berlin presented his doctoral thesis on mercury toxicology in 1963 at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm. He was an Associate professor and deputy head of the department of Environmental health at the National Institute of Public Health 1963-1967. During this time, he also spent a year as a visiting professor at the University of Rochester in Rochester, NY, USA. In1967 he was appointed as a full professor of environmental medicine and chairman of the Department of Environmental Hygiene at the University of Lund in Lund Sweden. His doctoral thesis and his subsequent experimental research was pioneering in introducing a scientific approach to understanding metal metabolism. Important fundamental toxicological differences among various chemical forms of mercury were demonstrated. This information has been of great importance within metal toxicology and human health risk assessment. In Lund his research in environmental medicine also included research on benzene and sleep disturbances from noise in addition to his experimental research on mercury. Maths Berlin was engaged and instrumental in getting WHO approval for the epidemiological studies on prenatal exposures to methyl mercury from fish consumption in the Seychelles. This research has been performed mainly by the University of Rochester team of scientists and continues to this day. Even in the last year of his life, Maths Berlin was actively performing research on another aspect of mercury toxicology namely the immunological effects in humans of mercury released in dental practice.

Maths Berlin was on leave from Lund University from 1983-88 when he worked for the World Health Organization (WHO) at the MARC Monitoring and Assessment Centre, University of London, UK. He served as chairman or member of a number of WHO criteria documents on metals during this period.

Maths Berlin participated in a number of international workshops organized by WHO and/or the Scientific Committee on the toxicology of metals, ICOH, where research results were summarized and consensus conclusions were published as books and reports. These reports have had a major influence on the development of risk assessment methods in occupational and environmental medicine and public health. In the last year of his life Maths Berlin completed the new chapter on Mercury for the 4th edition of the Handbook on the Toxicology of Metals, published 2015.

Maths Berlin belonged to the first Fellows invited by Irving Selikoff and Cesare Maltoni to form the Collegium Ramazzini in 1983. During more than 25 years he attended more annual meetings than most other Fellows and generally did so with his wife Margaretha. He always took an active part in the discussions of the Council and in the Scientific meetings with his explicit and well founded opinions.

Several Ramazzini colleagues were his close friends and some collaborated with him scientifically and in risk assessment. We will remember him as a great scientist and a reliable and good friend. Maths was also a great sports enthusiast, golf in the summer and curling in the winter were his favorites. We extend our deepest sympathy to his family and the wide network of colleagues who held him in such high regard.

Anders Englund and Gunnar Nordberg
Fellows of the Collegium Ramazzini

Questions? Comments! Mail to: events@ramazzini.it