May 22, 2011

Fred H. Bergmann, 83, who spent 27 years as a microbiologist at the National Institutes of Health and retired as director of the NIH genetics program, died May 2 at his home in the District of gastrointestinal ailments.

Dr. Bergmann joined the NIH in 1961 and worked in a research laboratory headed by Nobel Prize-winning scientist Marshall Nirenberg, who deciphered the genetic code. After working on research grants for several years, Dr. Bergmann became the first director of the NIH genetics program in 1972.

He helped set up the Human Genetic Mutant Cell Repository, a research center in New Jersey, and helped found a computerized information system that allowed scientists to examine genetic mutations in diseases. He retired in 1988.

In 1974, he received the Superior Service Honor Award of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare for his work with the cell repository.

Fred Heinz Bergmann was born in Feuchtwangen, Germany, and moved with his family to Berlin as a child. To avoid Nazi persecution of Jewish residents, his family fled to the United States in 1939 and settled in Kingston, N.Y.

He was a 1951 graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he also received a master’s degree in biology. He received a doctorate in biochemistry in 1957 from the University of Wisconsin.

After retiring from the NIH, Dr. Bergmann received a master’s degree in social work from Catholic University in 1990 and volunteered with AIDS patients at the Whitman Walker clinic in the District.

Survivors include his wife of 46 years, Dr. Barbara Berman Bergmann of Washington; two children, Sarah Bergmann of Washington and Dr. David Bergmann of East Greenwich, R.I.; and two grandchildren.

— Megan Buerger

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