Passing of Dr. Harold Kalter, Teratology Society Member since 1960 and first editor of journal Teratology

Dear Fellow Teratology Society Members,kalter smaller.jpg

I am writing today to share the sad news that an early member of the Teratology Society, Dr. Harold Kalter, has passed away. Dr. Kalter was the first editor of the journal Teratology, which later became Birth Defects Research. He was an active member of the Teratology Society since joining in 1960, the year the Teratology Society was founded. His full obituary is below, which has also beed posted on the In Memoriam section of the Teratology Society website and will be published in a forthcoming issue of Birth Defects Research. Members are encouraged to share their remembrances and condolences below using the comment function below and they will be shared with Dr. Kalter’s family.  (Note: Members must be logged in to be able to comment.)


Dr. Harold Kalter passed away February 21 in Rockville, Maryland, five days before turning 95.

Harold was born February 26, 1924 in the Bronx, New York, son of Samuel Kalter and Rose Kirschner, who had immigrated in their youth from Galicia, Poland and Kishinev, Romania. Sam and Rose had a dairy store which was lost in the Depression, so to continue supporting Harold and his younger sister Norma, Sam became an egg candler. As a boy, one of Harold’s part time jobs was delivering eggs for his father in the early hours before catching the subway to school. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School, and after graduating, enlisted in the army in 1942. He served nearly two years in the signal corps in Algeria, Tunisia, Sicily and Italy, including in the battle of Anzio. Back from overseas in early 1945, Harold was assigned to an army base in New Jersey, but because of damage from the Great Atlantic Hurricane, he was sent instead to the Avon Park Air Base in south Florida.

At the same time, a 23-year-old nurse from Montreal, named Bella Briansky, was visiting her aunt and uncle at their home in Miami Beach. Soldiers in the area were invited to Passover Seders at nearby homes, and there Harold and Bella met, and less than eight months later they married in Montreal. Supported by Bella, who served as head nurse of the outpatient department at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital, and by the GI Bill, Harold received his B.A. from Sir George Williams College in 1949, and his Ph.D. in Genetics from McGill University in 1953. They had two sons, Eliot and Henry, and in 1955 moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where their third son John was born.

Harold worked at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Research Foundation (CCHRF) from 1955 to 1994 as a Research Associate and Professor in the Department of Pediatrics; and following his retirement was Professor Emeritus in the Department until his passing. During his long career there Harold played a leading role in advancing the discipline of teratology. He authored many books considered classics in the field, including “Teratology of the Central Nervous System,” “A History of Diabetes in Pregnancy” and “Teratology in the Twentieth Century: Congenital Malformations in Humans and how their Environmental Causes were Established.” Among his many other accomplishments, Harold helped pioneer understanding of the interaction of heredity and environment in the production of congenital malformations, first with his 1954 paper based on his Ph.D thesis, titled “The inheritance of susceptibility to the teratogenic action of cortisone in mice,” and with several later publications, including “Experimental production of congenital malformations in strains of inbred mice by maternal treatment with hypervitaminosis A.”

Harold was an early member of the Teratology Society and was selected to be the founding editor of its journal Teratology, now published as Birth Defects Research. He served in this post from 1967 to 1976, providing a firm base for the journal as a periodical of distinction. After retiring from that editorship, Harold founded and edited a series of analytical reviews of lasting relevance and value titled “Issues and Reviews in Teratology” from 1983 until his retirement from the CCHRF in 1994.

In 2011 Bella and Harold moved to Rockville, Maryland to be closer to their sons, but nine months later Bella passed away. Harold continued on his own, occupying his time with family and his never-ending love of reading. He fell and broke his hip in February 2017, and he suffered declining physical health, but his wit, intellectual curiosity, and love of family continued on. In addition to his sons, Harold leaves his daughters-in-law Sandy, Julie, and Eti, seven grandchildren, Ben, David, Mati, Talia, Ella, Adar and Tamar, and one great grandchild, Aya.

Please make any donations in Harold’s honor to the Teratology Society, 11190 Sunrise Valley Drive, Suite 300, Reston, VA 20191, or to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, P.O. Box 5202, Cincinnati, Ohio 45201-5202.

1 Comment

Harold Kalter's passing

March 21, 2019 06:02 PM by Carole A. Kimmel

I was very sorry to hear of Harold Kalter's recent passing.  He was a giant in the field of Teratology and, in particular, laid a strong foundation for the journal we have today.  Harold maintained his interest in the field for a number of years after his retirement, becoming active again at one point in the Society.  Bella was a dear person who was devoted to Harold and their family and I always enjoyed seeing her at meetings.  My condolences to their children and grandchildren.  His was a life well-lived.

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