In Memoriam – Frederick Loring Crane

Frederick Loring Crane, a wandering scientist and a wonderful person!


Fred L. Crane was born on December 3rd, 1925, in the hospital of Montague, Massachusetts.  He obtained his PhD in Botany in 1953 from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Fred’s seminal and transcendent discovery of coenzyme Q in the respiratory chain of mitochondria was done at the Institute of Enzyme Research, at the University of Wisconsin (FL Crane, Y Hatefi, RL Lester, C Widmer (1957) Isolation of a quinone from beef heart mitochondria. Biochim Biophys Acta 25: 220-221). His discovery catalyzed a tremendous advance in mitochondrial bioenergetics and opened the field to demonstrate the importance of coenzyme Q in many aspects of health and disease, particularly in mitochondrial diseases. From this time until the very bitter end, he never stopped collaborating, mentoring, visiting and influencing many scientists around the world. He was interested and pledged during his last years to demonstrate the importance of coenzyme Q at the plasma membrane and its role in autism. In fact, his last paper published in May 29, 2014 in Biologics (Crane FL, Löw H, Sun I, Navas P, Gvozdjáková A. (2014) Plasma membrane coenzyme Q: evidence for a role in autism. Biologics 8: 199-205) completed an amazing, long and highly productive scientific career, which left behind a tremendous imprint with more than four hundred papers and thousands of friends (and fans), not only in the scientific society but with anyone that he crossed paths with. Fred Crane had a strong influence on scientists of any age and during most of his life he enjoyed long-term visits in research institutes and universities around the world, from Australia to Stockholm.

He also had a keen sense of humor. I clearly remember an anecdote from the time he was a visiting professor in Córdoba: Fred started to do his own grocery shopping and went to the market to buy fruits and vegetables by himself. The first day he called me and told: “Placido, I need to improve my Spanish substantially, because today, when I asked the shop clerk for bananas, he gave me artichokes”. Soon, they became friends.

He received many awards during his career, among them: the American Chemical Society Eli Lilly Award in Biochemistry (1961), Fulbright Award in Australia (1971), NIH Career Award (1964-1994), Silver Medal in Biochemistry, University of Bologna (1989), Doctor honoris causa of Medicine in the Karolinska Institute (1989), and Folkers Foundation Award for Research on Coenzyme Q (1996). Personally, I was thrilled when he accepted to be a visiting professor at the University of Córdoba (1994-1995) that transformed our scientific life and more. He was among the pioneers that built the “International Coenzyme Q10 Association” where he was Vice-Chairman (1997-2002). Now, he has finished his last chapter in life, leaving behind his memories in his book “A Wandering Professor”, from which I copied the title of this memorial, but most importantly, he has left all of us a path to follow, a tremendous legacy of what is to be a great scientist, mentor and a friend.  He is leaving a void in our hearts but his legacy will live within our thoughts and deeds forever!

With our greatest memories Rafael de Cabo and Plácido Navas