National Institute on Aging

In Memoriam: Samuel Allen Counter Jr., 1944-2017

S. Allen Counter, a noted neurophysiologist and the founding director of the Harvard Foundation of Intercultural and Race Relations, died on July 12 at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was 73 years old and had suffered from cancer.

A native of Americus, Georgia, Dr. Counter earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at what is now Tennessee State University. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in communication from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and a medical degree at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

Dr. Counter first came to Harvard in 1970 as a postdoctoral fellow and an assistant neurophysiologist at Harvard Medical School, where his research focused on audiology and deafness.

In addition to his medical research, Dr. Counter was a member of the Explorers Club and traveled extensively. He was largely responsible for the effort to give Matthew A. Henson, a Black man who was a key figure in the 1909 North Pole expedition of Robert E. Peary, his due recognition. It was Henson, and not Peary, who was the first man to arrive at what they thought was the North Pole.

Dr. Counter’s book North Pole Legacy: Black, White and Eskimo (University of Massachusetts Press, 1991) recounts his expeditions to Greenland where he found descendants of both Henson and Peary who had fathered children with local women.



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