Speaking of Fred Sachs

A website about the life and works of Frederick Sachs

Fred Sachs strums guitar

From Sue Udin

I met Fred pretty soon after I arrived at UB in 1979. We were both faculty members in the medical school. We hit it off right away, but I think that Fred was such a friendly guy that pretty much anyone would hit it off with him quickly.

Fred was the smartest, most creative scientist at UB. You never knew what you’d see when you stopped by the lab. One of the high points of those casual visits took place when Falguni Guharay was doing a patch clamp recording from muscles. That happened to be one of the very first occasions that Fred’s lab obtained evidence for mechanoreceptors. That was a major turning point in the study of sensation, and in fact of how all cells respond to mechanical stimuli. Pretty exciting! It was one of the stand-out memories I have from all my years of working at UB. Fred followed up that first set of observations with years of innovative studies of the system, including the amazing discovery of the effects of tarantula venom. Not everybody has a pet tarantula in the lab like Fred did.

Outside of work, it was always a treat to get together with Fred. Music was a big feature of his parties, and it quickly became clear that Fred and my husband David and I had lots in common in our musical taste for old-timey music. Fred’s musical selections seemed particularly familiar to us. It didn’t take long to discover why. Before we had moved to Buffalo, we’d been fans of a show called Sweetwater Jamboree on MIT’s radio station. The hosts played the same kind of music, and eventually we made the connections that Fred Sachs is related to one of the hosts, Jon Sachs. Small world!

Fred was great host, and his autumn apple pie parties were a big event. One such party concluded with an absolutely enormous and pretty terrifying bonfire. I worried that he was going to set the woods on fire, but he actually did have it under control. My son was just a little kid on that occasion, but he certainly remembers that bonfire.

Fred’s kinetic sculptures were just wonderful, full of humor and creative design. One of the special treats in my trek from my lab in the Biomedical Research Building to my mail box in Cary Hall was the chance to walk down the corridor in Fred’s section of Cary Hall and see his tree of springs jiggling away. His homes were also replete with these delightful and unique pieces.

His creative sensibility also showed up when he came to one of our seders with a pocket full of plastic plagues. What a great idea! I’ve now been making my own collection, although it’s a challenge to come up with a good way to make a plastic model of darkness.

We were happy to see what a good match he and Jane found in each other. Both had a wide-ranging curiosity, a love of the outdoors, and a basic fearlessness.

I’m really lucky that I got to be friends with this lovely, brilliant, creative, and funny man. I miss him.

Susan Udin