Tribute to Frank Edward Moss (1934–2011)
Frank Moss was born February 10, 1934 in Paris, Illinois. He attended the University of Virginia in Charlottesville where he earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, a master's degree in nuclear engineering and a doctorate in physics. After postdoctoral studies in the Research Laboratories for the Engineering Sciences, the Department of Aerospace Engineering, and the Department of Physics at the University of Virginia and as a guest researcher at the Institute of Physics at the University of Rome, Italy, Frank joined the Department of Physics at the University of Missouri at St. Louis in 1971 as an Associate Professor. He was promoted to Full Professor in 1976 and to Curators' Professor in 2000. In 1996, Frank and his colleague Lon Wilkens founded the Center for Neurodynamics; Frank served as Director of the Center until 2006.
Frank received numerous fellowships and awards, most notably senior visiting fellowships by the British Science Research Council, Fellowship in the American Physical Society for elucidating the structure of turbulent superfluid helium and for the discovery of stochastic resonance in sensory biology, a senior Alexander von Humboldt Prize for study and research in Germany, a NATO Senior Visiting Fellowship from the Italian National Research Council at the Institute of Biophysics at the University of Pisa, Italy, and an Albert Leimer Visiting Professorship at the University of Augsburg, Germany. In addition to the international recognition of his work, Frank was also honored locally by the St. Louis scientific community, receiving the President's Award for Research and Creativity from the University of Missouri System and the Peter H. Raven Lifetime Award for “Service and Accomplishments in Science”, as well as Fellowship in the Academy of Science of St. Louis.
Frank served the scientific community as chair of the Division of Biological Physics of the American Physical Society, as an organizer of numerous symposia and international conferences, and as editorial board member for the Physical Review, Chaos, and the International Journal of Bifurcation and Chaos.
Frank’s scientific career started out in low temperature physics, specifically the fascinating physics of superfluid helium. Motivated by the discovery of the importance of multiplicative noise on turbulence in superfluid helium, Frank established himself as a leader in the then-emerging field of stochastic nonlinear dynamics. Frank’s most influential work is the discovery of stochastic resonance in sensory systems of living organisms. Stochastic resonance describes the non-intuitive effect where the addition of noise to a nonlinear system gives rise to enhanced sensitivity to a small subthreshold signal, or, in the case of sensory systems, enhances the detection of stimuli from the environment. Frank’s discovery was truly transformational - it triggered and still sustains research by leading scientists in as diverse disciplines as Physics, Biology, Engineering and Medicine. In recent years, Frank continued exploring new intellectual terrain at the interface of physics and biology as long as his health permitted, moving into studies of collective animal movement, animal foraging strategies, and evolutionary dynamics. In times where disciplinary research has become increasingly specialized, Frank was one of the very few who successfully promoted a scientific paradigm across multiple scientific borders. Equally important, Frank was an incredibly generous and good-hearted person or, as his German colleagues and friends would say, a herzensguter Mensch. With Frank’s passing, the scientific community has lost not only a unique scientist whose broad vision ushered in a new era of interdisciplinary research, but also a dear friend. He will be deeply missed by his friends and colleagues from all over the world. Read more