Born in Nanking, Gilbert Ling grew up and received his early schooling in Beijing and his Bachelor degree in Biology from the National Central University in Chungking in war-torn China. Shortly after college graduation, he took part in a nation-wide competitive
examination and won the biology slot to continue education in the US. In early 1946 he began his graduate study in the Department of Physiology at the University of Chicago under the world-famous Professor Ralph W. Gerard. Completing his Ph.D. in 1948, he spent two more years under Prof. Gerard as a Seymour Coman Postdoctoral Fellow. In 1950 he got his first job as an Instructor at the Medical School of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, a job he held until 1953 when he took a new offer back in Chicago again.
Three major events marked this three-year stay in Baltimore. First, on the basis of the results of some new experimental studies completed, he came to the conclusion that the
traditional theory of the living cell could be in very serious trouble. Second, he offered a re-placement—known later as Ling's Fixed Charge Hypothesis. The third major event began with the acceptance of a dinner-party invitation over the alternative of seeing a movie.
Little did he know that at this party, he was to meet, and later marry the beautiful and talented Shirley Wong—once a school-mate of Ling's sister, Nancy, in Shanghai—, then a student at the Peabody Conservatory of Music of Baltimore, studying piano under M. Munz.
Ling's new job in Chicago offered him more opportunity to continue full-time research at the Neuropsychiatric Institute of the University of Illinois Medical School. Beginning as an Assistant Professor, he was promoted two years later to (tenured) Associate Professor-ship. In 1957 an even more attractive job lured him back to the East again. But before leaving Chicago, he had the opportunity to lay down much of the groundwork for the major thesis he was to complete later.
At that time, the city of Philadelphia was undergoing a major renewal under the leader-ship of Joseph dark and Richardson Dilworth. As part of this buildup, a brand-now 9-storied Eastern Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute (EPPI) was erected, including on its 9th floor with a panoramic view, a superb Basic Research Department—where Ling (and his crew) was to continue his research as a Senior Research Scientist for five more years. At EPPI, he completed the writing of his first book. Warren Blaisdell, President of the newly-formed Blaisdell Publishing Co. (a division of Random House) came by and signed a con-tract to publish the volume under the title: "A Physical Theory of the Living State: the Association-Induction Hypothesis." The book appeared in print in 1962.
Unfortunately the nearly ideal environment at EPPI was not to endure. In 1961 the
wonderful group of scientists gathered at the Basic Research Department was mostly on the way out.
Ling then had to make a critical decision. To accept a tenured full professorship offered him at Tulane University where he would have to spend a substantial part of his time
teaching pharmacology. Or to live on uncertain research grants from there on—but to continue full-time research. With the support of his wife, he took the risky alternative—as the
director of a still-nonexistent research laboratory at the Pennsylvania Hospital to be supported by research grant money yet to be applied for.
On the plus side of the new situation was Frank Elliott, M.D., a brilliant, witty, and
influential research-oriented neurologist. It was under his protective wing. Ling began the next phase of his research career. Another plus for staying in Philadelphia was that the Lings could continue to live in their beloved 100-year-old Victorian house in the suburb, where they have raised their three children and where Dr. Ling had indulged in his love for
growing roses—as many as over 70 bushes at one time—and for raising from seeds a vegetable garden every year.
Pennsylvania Hospital, founded by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Bond, is America's First Hospital. At this juncture, the Hospital was itself undergoing a renaissance. With funds provided by the John A. Hartford Foundation (of the A and P fortune) and under the able guidance of its young and able President, H. Robert Cathcart, noted physicians from all over the world like Frank Elliott were invited to join its staff. So it was in a pervasive atmosphere of adventure and expectation that a first-rate research laboratory materialized in a stand-alone two-storied building—used at the time for storage but was once a part of a Catholic Orphanage. This was how the Department of Molecular Biology came into existence at the corner of 7th and Spruce Street in the Society Hill district of central Philadelphia.
It was here that Ling began his next 27 years of scientific research with his group of re-search assistants, a succession of secretaries, graduate students, postdoctoral students— from here and abroad. The membership of the group rose every summer with the arrival of summer students, who not only brought with them fresh enthusiasm and new talents but more often than not, actually contributed significantly to basic Science as witnessed by their names listed in the Author Index of this volume.
But to make this 27 years of continued scientific research possible, two exceptional scientist-administrators played key roles. They are Dr. Arthur Callahan of the Office of
Naval Research and Dr. Stephen Schiaffino of the National Institute of Health. And their
insistence on inviting only neutral reviewers to evaluate Ling's research proposals, for example.
In 1984, Ling published his second book, "In Search of the Physical Basis of Life." (Plenum Publ. Co.), summarizing rapidly gathering new knowledge from his laboratory and other
investigators. Unfortunately, both Drs. Callahan and Schiaffino eventually retired. With their departure, the situation deteriorated rapidly. In October 1988, Ling's laboratory was forced to close by the simultaneous withdrawal of all financial support.
It was at this critical juncture, another exceptional person intervened. This is Dr.
Raymond Damadian, the inventor of MRI and President of the MRI manufacturing company called Fonar—located at Melville on Long Island in New York. Henceforth, Fonar
company has not only been supporting and sheltering Ling himself but also two of his staff: Margaret Ochsenfeld and Dr. Zhen-dong Chen.
Along with all the books, records, office and laboratory equipments, Ling also brought with him to Long Island the editorial office of the scientific journal. Physiological Chemistry & Physics and Medical NMR. He was a co-Editor-in-chief of this journal between 1982 and 1984. Since 1984, he has been its (only) Editor-in-Chief.
Since the teaching part of Mrs. Ling's teaching-concertizing career could not be moved to Long Island, the Lings decided to buy a condo in Kings Park about 20 minutes drive from Fonar. From here on. Dr. Ling has been commuting by car between Long Island and
Philadelphia over each weekend.
In 1992 Ling published his third book, "A Revolution in the Physiology of the Living Cell." Five years after that, he began to write the present volume, planning to publish it this time by himself.