Dr. Perl’s lifelong contributions to the sciences have been numerous and important, being especially well known for his groundbreaking work on the mechanism of pain. Recognizing the future of neurosciences as an important academic and scientific frontier, he helped found the Society for Neuroscience and served as its first president. He remained an active and NIH-supported researcher for over 50 years.
Trained at University of Illinois, Harvard, and Walter Reed, Dr. Perl held faculty positions at the State University of New York and the University of Utah before beginning his over 40-year tenure at the University of North Carolina. As the Chairman of the Department of Physiology at UNC-Chapel Hill from 1971 to 1987, he established a vibrant and highly respected research team focused on neurosciences.
He was a dedicated teacher and consistently lectured to the medical classes throughout his many years at UNC training over 7,000 students at UNC alone. He expanded and directed the standard Curriculum in Neurobiology used to train university Ph.Ds, many of whom have pursued their own distinguished careers in the field. Dr. Perl was beloved for devoted mentorship to his staff, students, trainees, and faculty, as well as his advocacy for diversity within the academic community.
After his retirement, Dr. Perl was the primary contributor to the establishment of the Perl/UNC Neuroscience Prize, honoring seminal achievement in the field of neuroscience. Since its inception, the Perl/UNC prize has received national and international attention; it has been awarded to some of today’s most successful neuroscientists, including a number who have gone on to receive the Nobel Award for Physiology or Medicine.
Dr. Perl touched many lives. He was– and remains– deeply respected for his scientific accomplishments and personal contributions to the University and its community. He provided matchless education and training, and was an inspiration to all those around him. He is survived by countless mentees, comprising a litany of postdoctoral fellows, physicians, and research associates worldwide. Over the course of his career and life he led by example, encouraging intellectual curiosity and building an impressive cadre of enthusiastic investigators who share his passion for and commitment to neurosciences. He will be sorely missed and remembered dearly by all those who knew him.