Recent Obituaries
In Memoriam Archive

David E. Fahrney ’59

April 14, 2022, in Fort Collins, Colorado.

David was born in Nebraska where, in his youth, he had many medical issues that kept him for long periods of time at the Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Colorado.  He had lung issues and was one of the first civilians to receive penicillin, which saved his life.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Reed, where he wrote his thesis advised by Prof. Arthur Livermore [chemistry 1948–65] and then served two years in the army. He went on to study biochemistry at Columbia University, where he earned his PhD.

Dave developed a widely used inhibitor of esterases, PMSF, also known as Fahrney’s reagent. He was hired as an assistant professor at the department of chemistry at UCLA, where he continued research on enzyme mechanisms.

He married his wife, Eileen, in the late ’60s and in 1970 they moved to Fort Collins, where Dave was hired as an associate professor in the Colorado State University biochemistry department. He continued research on enzyme mechanisms, but also expanded work into metabolism of mycoplasma and thermophilic archaea, organisms that can live at extreme temperatures. During his last 20 years at CSU, Dave devoted most of his time to teaching. He taught most of the first-year graduate courses in both structural biochemistry and metabolism, excelling as an instructor in each area. A gifted teacher who inspired several generations of students, Dave had a great influence on many of his contemporary faculty members, helping them develop effective teaching styles and showing them how to engage students in course material. Among his most lasting contributions to instruction in biochemistry was his development of Interactive tutorials, for visualization of biochemical structures in a pseudo-3D mode, which became widely available. The tutorials have been downloaded freely more than 20,000 times from locations around the world.

Outside of university life, he was passionate about excelling in any activity, becoming a competitive skier after moving to Colorado. He won the top award for competition in his group, and as a marksman won several rifle marksmanship trophies. His wife was a photographer, and Dave took up this hobby. When she died in 2013, he continued to take photographs, traveling the world on photographic tours with a group of professional photographers who critiqued each other’s work.

Appeared in Reed magazine: December 2022

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