Ernest C. Foulkes

Ernest Foulkes, PhD, twice interim chair of the Department of Environmental Health and emeritus professor, died June 15. Dr. Foulkes was 93.

Dr. Foulkes served as interim chair from 1967 to 1969 when Edward Radford, MD, left the chairmanship to join Johns Hopkins University. He was tasked with continuing the process initiated by Dr. Radford to transform the university-affiliated Kettering Laboratory into the regular academic Department of Environmental Health within the College of Medicine. Dr. Foulkes served again as interim chair from 1994 to 1996 after Roy Albert, MD, stepped down as chair when he retired.

Born in Germany, Dr. Foulkes trained as a biochemist at the University of Sydney in Australia before receiving his doctorate in biochemistry from Oxford University in England in 1952. That same year, Dr. Foulkes was offered the opportunity to gain postdoctoral experience at the University of Cincinnati with the Department of Physiology and the May Institute at the Jewish Hospital of Cincinnati. Dr. Foulkes later received an investigatorship from the American Heart Association, which influenced him to remain at the University of Cincinnati and continue his research on renal tubular transport.

In 1965, Dr. Foulkes joined the Department of Environmental Health where he developed an interest in renal toxicology, especially that of heavy metals. For over 30 years, Dr. Foulkes investigated the mechanisms responsible for absorption, distribution and excretion of heavy metals and the nature of the functional lesions these metals elicited in the kidneys of exposed humans and experimental animals. This investigation led to a better understanding of the intestinal absorption of cadmium, mercury and other metals, as well as an identification of the multiple sites for their toxic action on renal function. His research in the health effects of heavy metal in renal and heart diseases firmly established the department’s reputation in heavy metal toxicity.


Dr. Foulkes also served as head of the division of Biological Sciences in environmental health from 1965 until 1984 and as the department’s associate director for research from 1970 until 1985. He became an emeritus professor in May 1998. He served on many university and college committees, including serving as president of the College of Medicine faculty from 1968 to 1970 and as a university senator from 1970 to 1973.