Wednesday, May 31, 2023


Robert B. Northrop, 84

Robert B. Northrop, a former Westport resident, died July 17. He was 84.

His mother was an artist, his father, a doctor who practiced in Norwalk. Robert grew up in Westport with his parents’ scholarship and talent as his background. Earning his BS in electrical engineering from MIT in 1956, he attended the University of Connecticut at Storrs to continue his education.

When he finished his MS in EE in 1958, he began teaching, and discovered how much he enjoyed it. A project he was invited to compete for a physiologist at the university led him to begin Ph.D. studies in Comparative Neurophysiology. At this time, he developed an electrical method to direct migrating fish, and to collect them for census.

He married Adelaide, his wife of 58 years, while a graduate student. He completed his degree as a Cell Biology Fellow shortly before the birth of his first child in 1963, and was appointed a professor in engineering.

His continuing curiosity and research led him to co-found one of the first academic programs in biomedical engineering in the country. A brilliant researcher, he developed innovative ways to diagnose or treat such diseases as cystic fibrosis, diabetes, and AIDS.

His goal, to improve noninvasive medical diagnostics, led him to develop a mathematical model of the immune system which accurately predicted the effectiveness of differing treatments for AIDS.

He studied a way to determine blood sugar levels in diabetics using polarized light reflected from the eye. His sabbatical leaves broadened his and his family’s knowledge of the world at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in northern England, and at Texas Tech in the high plains of Texas.

After he retired in 1997, he continued teaching as an adjunct while codifying his huge body of knowledge into 15 textbooks now used all over the world. He was completing another when he died.

He is survived by his wife, three daughters, and a sister. For information about the memorial, please contact his daughter, Victoria Northrop, at (860)465-9044.

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