June 15, 2024


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Louise Slade, Scientist Who Studied the Molecules in Food, Dies at 74

“A lot of what Louise established was how to make products consistent and stable without putting in a lot of additives consumers don’t want,” Todd Abraham, who worked with Dr. Slade at Kraft, said in an interview.

Dr. Slade provided not just a framework for answering those challenges but also a voluminous amount of research: She and Dr. Levine, who worked together for much of their professional careers, published some 260 papers and received 47 patents. She once estimated that the patents she received for her corporate employers were worth over $1 billion.

Louise Slade was born on Oct. 26, 1946, in Florence, S.C. Her father, Charles, ran a lumber-treatment factory, and her mother, Loraine (Browning) Slade, was a homemaker.

Dr. Levine is her only immediate survivor.

Louise showed early promise as a ballet dancer, so much so that her parents arranged for her to study at the Juilliard School in Manhattan. Although she easily held her own among her elite classmates, she became convinced that she was too tall and ill proportioned to make it as a prima ballerina.

She left ballet to attend Barnard College, where she received a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1968. She had wanted to study botany as a graduate student, but there was little funding for the field available at the time, so she took up biochemistry. She received her master’s and Ph.D. from Columbia in 1974, after which she moved to the University of Illinois as a postdoctoral fellow.

Dr. Slade went to work in 1979 as a scientist for General Foods (which later merged with Kraft), where she met Dr. Levine. It was a perfect pairing: She was working on frozen dough, he was working on frozen desserts — two types of food that, because of their high water content, stood to benefit from a systematic molecular understanding.