Harold Gainer

With sadness, we share the passing of Harold (Hal) Gainer on November 7, 2023. A scientist emeritus with the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), Gainer was affiliated with the MBL for more than 60 years as a former Trustee and MBL Society member, Whitman investigator, and course faculty member. The MBL flag will be lowered in his memory.

Gainer first came to the MBL in 1960 as a postdoctoral scientist with Harry Grundfest, a renowned neurophysiologist at Columbia University who packed up his lab each summer and moved its operations to Woods Hole. “From the first summer, I was hooked,” Gainer recalled in a video interview by the MBL History Project. He and his wife, Ruth Straus Gainer, purchased a home in Woods Hole in 1979 and spent most summers there ever since.

With Grundfest in Woods Hole, Gainer transitioned from the biochemistry work of his Ph.D. to studying the electrophysiology of muscle and synapses in lobsters and crayfish. He later moved to working with squid during its heyday at MBL, collaborating with other scientists to illuminate the fundamentals of neural physiology and neurotransmission using the squid giant axon. Among his significant contributions were studies on neurofilament proteins and investigations into protein synthesis within the axon, work he continued after retiring from the laboratory by co-writing papers with MBL colleagues.

Gainer was also affiliated with the MBL Neurobiology course for many years, serving as a lecturer and faculty member in the 1970s.

A professional biography of Gainer published by NINDS is here.

He leaves his wife, Ruth; children Vivian, Ben and Jesse; and three granddaughters.