Obituary of Dr.CM Lewis

Govindjee gov at
Wed Mar 27 14:14:50 EST 1996

Obituary of Charleton M.Lewis, 1905-1996
Charlton M. (Tony) Lewis died peacefully in his sleep in his home in
Altadena,CA on March 12, 1996, after a prolonged illness. Lewis was not
only a co-discoverer with Robert Emerson of the famous "Red Drop" in
Photosynthesis (Emerson and Lewis, 1943), but it was also he, who with
Emerson, showed convincingly that the minimum quantum yield of oxygen
evolution in photosynthesis was 10-12 per oxygen molecule, not 4 or less,
as Otto Warburg and his colleagues had been publishing (Emerson and
Lewis, 1941, 1943). Further, it was Emerson and Lewis (1942, 1943) who
compared quantitatively data on the fractional absorption, in vivo, of
the various photosynthetic pigments (including carotenoids) with the
measured maximum quantum yield of oxygen evolution, as a function of
wavelength of light, in cyanobacteria and green algae, reaching the
conclusion that the efficiency of excitation energy transfer from
cyanobacterial carotenoids to chlorophyll a was very small as compared to
that in green algae.

      Born on August 13, 1905, in New Haven, Connecticut, Lewis graduated
from Taft School (1924) and Yale University (1928), and received his PhD
in Physics at California Institute of Technology in 1933 working on the
Raman Effect with Professor William Houston. A postdoctoral fellowship at
Princeton was interrupted by a two year bout with tuberculosis, but
during 1937, 1938, he was invited to the Carnegie Institute of Washington
at Stanford, on the initiative of Robert Emerson. During 1939-1941, not
only was a one-of-a-kind large monochromator and a system to measure
precisely the rate of oxygen evolution in weak monochromatic light
constructed by Emerson and Lewis, but the classical paper that started
the famous Emerson-Warburg controversy was born. [Although both Emerson
and Lewis served as "Research Associates" at the Carnegie Institute at
Stanford, Emerson was already on the faculty of the Department of Biology
at Cal Tech after 1930, with the title of Assistant Professor of
Biophysics.] After working with Emerson, Lewis joined the Laboratory of
Lawrence Blinks in Marine Biology for a brief period. During World War
II, he did research with Ted Dunham in optics and radar at the Mount
Wilson Observatory in Pasadena, designing bomb-sights for the Air Force.
When the War was over, he entered patent work in partnership with Trimble
Barkelew, which he continued until his retirement.

     The families of Lewis and Emerson have been close friends ever since
Bob and Tony worked together on the Stanford campus.

     Lewis was an outstanding photographer. His black and white
photographs of natural scenary as well as the portraits he took of
friends and their families are excellent.He has had several shows, the
most recent one was 3 years ago at the Altadena library.

     During my visit to Pasadena in January, 1996, I found Tony Lewis to
be a very gentle person who held his friend and co-worker Robert Emerson
in very high esteem.

     Lewis is survived by his wife Catherine Woodward Lewis, whom he
married in 1929, a son Charlton M.III of Brooklyn, New York, a daughter
Meredith Stout of Berkeley, CA, five grand children, and two great grand
children. A second daughter Joan died in 1985.

     I am thankful to Charlton M. III, and Catherine Lewis for their
generous help in preparing this obituary.

     On behalf of the photosynthesis community, I send our condolences to
the Lewis family.


Emerson, R., and Lewis, C.M. (1941) Carbon dioxide exchange and the
measurement of the quantum yield of pphotosynthesis.Amer. J. Bot. 28:

Emerson,R., and Lewis, C.M. (1942) The photosynthetic efficiency of
phycocyanin in Chroococus and the problem of carotenoid participation in
photosynthesis. Jour. Gen. Physiol. 25: 579-595.

Emerson,R.,and Lewis, C.M. (1943) The dependence of the quantum yield of
Chlorella photosynthesis on wavelength of light. Amer. J. Bot. 30: 165-178.

Department of Plant Biology                               Govindjee
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
 265 Morrill Hall
505 South Goodwin Avenue
Urbana,IL 61801-6655, USA

[The above may be reproduced by anyone, but only after permission from
the author, and, after citation: Govindjee (1996, personal communication,
posted on Photosyn at on March 27, 1996;however, all rules of
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Govindjee                                Office telephone: 217-333-1794
Department of Plant Biology              Office fax: 217-244-7246
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