Dr. Robert B. Barlow Jr. ’61, noted vision researcher, died on December 24, 2009, in Jamesville, New York after a battle with leukemia.
He founded and directed the Center for Vision Research at SUNY Health Science Center (now called Upstate Medical University) in Syracuse, which has become the largest clinically focused research group at the university. His leadership was critical in establishing the SUNY Upstate Foundation’s endowment to support vision research and the SUNY Eye Institute, a collaboration of all four SUNY medical schools performing vision research. In 1997, he led a team of researchers at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., that created a computer model simulating the behavior of neurons in a crab’s eye to better understand how the eye sends signals that the brain can understand. He was well recognized for his research on macular degeneration, with the President’s Award for Excellence and Leadership in Research at Upstate Medical University in 2002, Senior Scientist Award-Research to Prevent Blindness in 2005, State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities in 2007, and the ARVO (Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology) Gold Fellow in 2009. He served as vice president of the ARVO board of trustees, a trustee of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole and a director for the Doreen Grace Brain Center in Mashpee, Mass. He had been a visiting scholar at Harvard University, University of Cambridge in England and the University of Tsukuba in Japan. He was featured in many scientific journals and programs, including Nature magazine, Discovery Channel and the BBC. He published in more than 103 scientific papers. He was born on July 31, 1939, in Trenton, N.J., and prepared for college at Freehold High School and the Peddie School in New Jersey. He was a James Bowdoin Scholar and a member of Chi Psi fraternity at Bowdoin. He was awarded an undergraduate research fellowship before graduating cum laude, and then won a Rockefeller Institute Fellowship for Graduate Study. He earned his doctorate from Rockefeller University in 1967 and then worked for 28 years as a scientist, researcher and professor at Syracuse University before joining the faculty at SUNY Health Science Center in 1996 as a professor of ophthalmology. He loved to swim, scuba dive and fish on his boat, the Jimbo. Summers at Woods Hole were punctuated by daily swims, usually off Nobska Beach; he even swam across Vineyard Sound and Buzzard’s Bay. In Syracuse, he liked to spend his free time swimming or taking in a Syracuse University basketball game. He was also an active member of the Pompey Lions Club. He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Patricia Dreyer Barlow; two daughters, Kimberly Kelly and Jill Bloom; a son, Jack Barlow; seven grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; a brother, James Barlow; and a sister, Margaret Jane Lawson.