Correction to This Article
An earlier version of this obituary incorrectly stated the year of Ichiji Tasaki's retirement. Dr. Tasaki retired from the National Institutes of Health in 2008 when he was 97. This version has been corrected.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ichiji Tasaki Neurophysiologist

Ichiji Tasaki, 98, a Japanese neurophysiologist who is credited with discovering the insulating function of the myelin sheath and published research relating to the electrical impulses in the nervous system, died Jan. 4 at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda from a subdural hematoma. He was a Bethesda resident.

In the late 1930s, while Dr. Tasaki was pursuing a research career in Japan, he was the first to publish research on "saltatory conduction," which explained how nerve impulses travel along the myelinated nerve fibers and "jump" between breaks in the myelin wrapping. His research is credited with providing the foundation to help understand diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

Ichiji Tasaki was born in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, and earned his medical degree from Keio University in Tokyo in 1938. After World War II, he studied the properties of nerve fibers in England and Switzerland through a Rockefeller Fellowship.

In 1951 he moved to the United States to work at the Central Institute for the Deaf at Washington University in St. Louis, where he and other researchers studied how sound waves travel through the ear and generate nerve impulses that the brain can interpret. His work helped lead to the formation of the field of audiology.

In 1953, he began his career at the National Institutes of Health as a senior scientist at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Blindness and later became a laboratory chief and senior research scientist at the National Institute of Mental Health until he retired in 2008.

In 1957, he became a naturalized U.S. citizen.

From 1998 until his death, he was associated with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, where he continued to conduct research as a scientist emeritus. He continued to publish papers into his 90s.

His wife of 70 years, Nobuko Tasaki, died in 2003.

Survivors include his sons, Akira Tasaki of Tsukuba, Japan; Keiji Tasaki of Bethesda; four grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

-- Lauren Wiseman

Morris M. Thompson Civil Engineer

Morris M. Thompson, 96, a civil engineer who served with the U.S. Geological Survey's Topographic Division for 56 years, died of congestive heart failure Jan. 6 at Greenspring Village retirement community in Springfield, where he lived.

He was known in the mapping profession for his work as Atlantic region engineer and as chief of the Office of Research and Technical Standards, and as the editor and author of numerous books, including "Maps for America" (1979), which was republished twice.

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