It is with great sorrow that we share the news that Louise Slade, Ph.D., age 74, of Morris Plains, NJ, a research biochemist known for her fundamental insights into the basic chemistry of foods, died unexpectedly on October 7, 2021. Her research and life partner of over 40 years, Dr. Harry Levine, was with her at her death, as he had been throughout most of her adult life.
After she obtained her Ph.D. in chemistry at Columbia University in 1974 and following a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Illinois, she joined General Foods as a research scientist. She went on to spend her entire research career in the food industry, as a research fellow with both Nabisco and Kraft Foods. In collaboration with Dr. Levine, she created a novel approach to what is now termed "food polymer science." This fundamental scientific work led to 47 granted patents, most of which were turned into practical advances that are now taken for granted in such commercial foods as cookies, crackers, snack chips, and soft ice cream. Her research and practical impact on our understanding of wheat flour/wheat quality is felt across grain-based food companies. She and Harry together created rich, fundamental links between flour testing methods (most notably, Louise's new solvent retention capacity (SRC) method) and food quality. Late in her career, she was honored by having a new soft wheat cultivar, "Louise", named after her by the cultivar's breeder, Dr. Kim Kidwell, and the USDA Western Wheat Quality lab led by Dr. Craig Morris.
During her illustrious career, she was awarded many honors bestowed by national and international research organizations. Among the most prominent honor was a 3-day symposium held at an American Chemical Society Annual Meeting in 2018, titled "Water in Foods Symposium in Honor of Louise Slade and Harry Levine." In 1999, Drs. Slade and Levine received the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Industrial Scientist Award for their major technical contributions to the advancement of the food industry. In 2004, they were honored with the prestigious Tanner Award from the IFT Chicago Section. In addition, Drs. Slade (in 2016) and Levine (in 2018) were elected IFT Fellows. In 2007, Drs. Slade and Levine received the Halverson Award from the Milling and Baking Division of AACC International (AACCI).
In 2008, Drs. Slade and Levine were honored with the AACCI Applied Research Award, which brought along with it AACCI Fellow status. In 2019, Louise and Harry also received the AACCI Alsberg-French-Schoch Memorial Lectureship award for excellence in fundamental starch chemistry.
Following her retirement from Kraft Foods in 2006, Dr. Slade continued her involvement in basic food science by creating her own consulting business, Food Polymer Science Consultancy, with her partner Dr. Harry Levine, and by consulting with dozens of global food and beverage companies. Additionally, she became affiliated with the Monell Chemical Senses Center, a basic research organization in Philadelphia that studies taste, smell, and related senses. She served in several capacities at Monell, and at her death, she was a member of the Monell Center Board of Directors, where she shared her expertise and passion for making healthier foods.
Louise was born on October 26, 1946, in Florence, SC, to Charles and Loraine (Browning) Slade. As a young girl, Louise was attracted to art, particularly to ballet. She studied ballet at Julliard for several years, but, realizing that she could likely not be a top ballerina, she chose a quite different path to create an impact on the world. Instead, she went to Barnard College and obtained a degree in biology. There, she was highly attracted to botany, but there were few funds at that time to support graduate studies in plants, so she became a biochemist. Her interest in botany reblossomed in her later years, when she became deeply involved in studying healthy constituents in extra virgin olive oil, along with colleagues at Monell. Her last scientific paper (out of more than 270 published during her career) was published just months before her death and concerned novel sensory properties of olive oil.
On a personal note, one of her colleagues at Nabisco, Dr. Hamed Faridi, had the following to say, "Louise was likely the only Nobel Prize caliber food scientist in the last 50 years." Deirdre Ortiz added that Louise was a valuable friend and technical mentor who Deirdre called her "science-mom." Many who knew her recognized her willingness to share what she learned and her distain for "bad-science." She pushed us all to be better technical leaders, and while Louise lives on through her contributions, the world is poorer for her absence.
Louise is survived by her partner, Dr. Harry Levine. Please send condolences to him at: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you wish to make a donation in her memory, please consider the Monell Chemical Senses Center.