Dr. Irving Zabin died on March 1, 2021, at home at St. Paul’s Towers in Oakland, surrounded by his loving family. He was 101 years old, and he died just short of the 79th anniversary of his wedding to the love of his life, Esther Marshall Zabin.

Irving Zabin was born in 1919 in Chicago, the oldest son of Morris and Alexia Zabin, Jewish immigrants from Ukraine. First in his family to go to college, he received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Illinois. He served in the Air Force during World War II as a meteorologist and was sent to Paris when the war ended. His life was changed there when he met a French biochemist who encouraged him to go to graduate school and become a scientist. He followed that path, and with the support of the GI Bill he was able to earn his Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of Chicago, even while supporting his young family. 

Irving subsequently accepted a postdoctoral position at UCLA, and he stayed at the university, becoming one of the founding faculty of the UCLA Medical School. His career at UCLA spanned 62 years, as a scientist and professor of biochemistry until he was 70 and as assistant dean for academic affairs in the medical school until he was 92. He took several sabbatical leaves to go back to Paris and work at the Pasteur Institute, where he contributed to the discoveries of French biochemists Jacques Monod and François Jacob, who received the Nobel Prize in 1965 for their work in genetics.  Irving was well known in the Biochemistry world for his lab’s identification of the amino-acid sequence of the beta-galactosidase enzyme of the bacterium E coli. This was the longest protein sequence identified with the techniques of that time and is still recognized as an important contribution to protein chemistry.  Irving loved UCLA, and was twice elected president of the Faculty Club.  Even after moving to Oakland in 2012 he proudly wore his UCLA hat.

In addition to his love for science and the University, Irving was devoted to music. He took up the violin in adulthood when his son Fred became a jazz musician and invited Irving to play with him. Irving became a serious amateur classical violinist and continued to practice into his second century; he performed with a pianist at his 100th birthday party.

Irving and Esther raised their family in Santa Monica, where they were involved in civic life until they moved to Oakland to be close to children and grandchildren. Irving felt profound love for his family, and he always expressed it!  He treasured his wife Esther, his children Lee, Fred (deceased 2003), and Carol, his grandchildren Hopi, Djamil, and Maria Angelica, and his great grandchildren Malekae, Cassius, Beau, and Ginger. He is deeply missed.

This memorial website was created in memory of our loved one, Irving Zabin, 101 years old, born on November 13, 1919, and passed away on March 1, 2021. We will remember him forever.

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