life and timesThe common term Renaissance man is used to describe a person who is well educated or who excels in a wide variety of subjects or fields.

The notion in Renaissance Italy expressed by one of its most accomplished representatives, Leon Battista Alberti (1404–1472): that “a man can do all things if he will” is the theme of our new Life and Times series. The notion embodied the basic tenets of Renaissance humanism, which considered humans empowered, limitless in their capacities for development.

The individuals highlighted in our series represent the innovation of thought found during the Renaissance. They epitomize the Scientific Revolution, an era that followed the Renaissance in the 16th and 17th centuries. In this period, new ideas and knowledge in physics, astronomy, biology, medicine and chemistry transformed medieval and ancient views of nature and laid the foundations for modern science. The era was sparked by the publication in 1543 of two works that changed the course of science: Nicolaus Copernicus’s On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres and Andreas Vesalius’s On the Fabric of the Human body.

We are pleased to feature in our inaugural edition Dr. Carl Franzblau, definitely a Renaissance Man, definitely a man of new ideas, one who would have been at home during the Scientific Revolution.

Life and Times Feature

There are two ways of living: a man may be casual and simply exist, or constructively and
deliberately try to do so. The constructive idea implies a constructiveness not only about one’s
own life, but about that of society, and the future possibilities of mankind.

– Sir Julian Huxley


Our feature today is of a man who has constructively and deliberately lived his life and in so doing affected the present and future possibilities of mankind.

HSC’s Life and Times series focuses on those who have committed their careers to the advancement of Science. Dr. Carl Franzblau, Associate Dean for Graduate Biomedical Science Studies, Boston University School of Medicine will retire in September after 50 years of exemplary service. Dr. Franzblau, a Senior Fellow of HSC, has been involved with the Foundation since its inception.

When the Boston University Metcalf Cup and Prize for Excellence in Teaching was awarded to Dr. Franzblau, the announcement stated,

Professor Carl Franzblau’s entire career as a teacher has been spent at the Boston University School of Medicine. It has been a great career in medical research and teaching. Dr. Franzblau’s first doctoral student, now a professor of biochemistry at a major medical center says, “I credit whatever skills I have to his guidance and to the example he set.” And one of his current students says, “He exemplifies excellence not only as a lecturer-teacher, but also as a caring and understanding human being.”

Five years ago a symposium was held to honor Dr. Franzblau. It was written that the event would celebrate a University leader who has made countless lasting contributions to Boston University and the national and international scientific community during his more than 45 years of dedication and service. Many have reflected on the breadth and scope of Dr. Franzblau’s guidance, mentoring, and positive influence throughout their careers and lives.

HSC Senior Fellow Dr. Carl Franzblau has now served 50 years at his post, contributed volumes of work as can be seen in his official Curricula Vitae (CV) and is still finding time to expand the lives of children who would never have developed an interest in science but for his relentless pursuit of the CityLabs program. Click here to read Dr. Franzblau’s CV.

Let’s look at one of Dr. Franzblau’s projects that, in HSC’s opinion, is exemplary of his vision and talent.

The CityLabs program created by Franzblau was launched in 1992 with funding from an NCRR Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA). Initially, the program offered science lessons on the Boston University Medical Campus. In 1998, CityLabs unveiled a 40-foot bus outfitted with state-of-the-art biotechnology equipment that could deliver lessons directly to students at their schools. Franzblau in the course of building his science on wheels program, created an initiative for low socio economic school districts. His hope was to capture the interest of students who would never have had the chance to expand their horizons into the realms of scientific discovery. Not only did he inspire those students but the CityLabs model has greatly expanded and is used by many other communities than its original start in the greater Boston area. As of 2010 it had served over 32,000 students. To learn more about this amazing program, please read the article entitled “Taking Science Education on the Road – Traveling laboratories deliver engaging science lessons to classrooms everywhere,” written by Laura Bonetta and published in the NIH’s journal The NCRR Reporter. Click here to read.

Another facet of Franzblau’s, is his understated but ever present ability to be a visionary and develop programs ahead of their times. Today when Electronic Medical Records (EMR) systems are being installed in all major hospitals, those who follow Franzblau’s work realize how ahead he was in advocating the use of personal EMRs through his Med-InfoChip concept.

The Med-InfoChip program enables a person to organize, carry and maintain their personal medical profile at all times. Designed to be worn around the neck, attached to a keychain or carried in a wallet, this lightweight, affordable “plug ‘n’ play” device inserts into a USB port on any computer for easy access by a patient, physician or emergency responder. The chip was targeted towards business and leisure travelers who need medical attention on the road, anybody incapacitated during a medical emergency, campers and students who are away from home and the elderly trying to manage multiple prescriptions with their pharmacist.

There are many programs credited to Franzblau all noteworthy, all dedicated to his pursuit of innovative applications in bio medical science. In closing, we share with you one more star in the panorama of creation that Franzblau produced over this last half a century of work.

Hemagen, a company created by Franzblau, started with 2 employees and $125,000 in funding, part of which was provided by Boston University. Franzblau served as COB and CEO for the first 14 years. The company focused on the development and manufacture of medical diagnostic kits with FDA approval. Ultimately, Hemagen became a public company and grew to 120 employees, $16 million in sales and carried 125 FDA approved products.

While teaching, and inspiring students who have repeatedly acknowleged his influence, Dr. Franzblau has also managed to create a great body of innovative programs.

If the Merriam-Webster definition of a Renaissance man, “a person who has wide interests and is expert in several areas”, is to be accepted, then Dr. Carl Franzblau is, without doubt, that man.