Remembering Dr. Richard Passwater, Natural Products Industry Pioneer

Dr. Passwater is fondly remembered by his colleagues, including the team at WholeFoods Magazine, where he served as Science Editor for 36 years and wrote the popular Vitamin Connection column.

Richard Albert Passwater, Ph.D., a pioneer of the natural products industry, passed away on April 28, 2022, at the age of 84. Dr. Passwater is fondly remembered by his colleagues, including the team at WholeFoods Magazine, where Dr. Passwater served as Science Editor for 36 years and wrote WholeFoods Magazine’s popular Vitamin Connection column, which he created. His final column will be shared in the June 2022 issue.

Dr. Richard Passwater, 1937-2022

During his extensive career, Dr. Passwater served as a civilian scientist with the Air Force’s Project Papa Bear to ensure the purity of liquid nitrogen for the Centaur rocket; he was Director, Research Analytics Laboratories at Allied Chemical Corporation; Director, Applications Research Laboratory at Baxter-Travenol Laboratories; Vice President of Research for the American Gerontological Research Laboratories Division of Life Science Labs; and Vice President of Research and Development for Solgar Vitamin & Herb Company.

His impact on the industry is significant, as he wrote more than 45 books and 600 articles, and participated in over 7,000 radio shows. He has often been recognized for his work. Among the honors:

  • Honored by the Committee for World Health (1978 & 1980)
  • Recipient of the nutrition industry’s Achievement Award (1989)
  • Recipient of the National Nutrition Foods Association’s Presidents Award (1999)
  • Recipient of the James Lind Scientific Achievement Award (2004)
  • Recipient of the John Peter Zenger Free Press Award for writing (2004)
  • Inductee to the Orthomolecular Medicine Hall of Fame (2021). He received this honor from the International Society for Orthomolecular Medicine (ISOM) for his decades of work as a pioneer in the field of Orthomolecular Medicine. As ISOM shared, Dr. Passwater began researching selenium and other antioxidants in 1959, discovered antioxidant synergism (US patent 6,090,414) in 1962, and mainstream media reports of his research in 1970-71 in introduced the public to the words “free radical,” “antioxidant,” and “selenium.”

Dr. Passwater’s list of contributions to the natural health field is long, and detailed by ISOM. Among the highlights:

  • In the early 1970s, he was the first nutrition advisor to a National Football League team, and was also a nutrition advisor to the professional boxer and humanitarian, Muhammad Ali.
  • In 1975, his book Super-Nutrition: Megavitamin Revolution was a #4 national best seller, and has been credited with legitimizing megavitamin therapy. Dr. Passwater went on to author more than 45 books and more than 600 articles, as well as more than 7,000 radio shows on nutrition.
  • Dr. Passwater served on the editorial board of the Journal of Applied Nutrition, and has been cited 39 times in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine.
Related: Vitamin Connection: Dr. Richard Passwater’s Most Popular Columns
Richard Passwater, Ph.D., Inducted Into Orthomolecular Medicine Hall of Fame

His passing is also felt in his local communities of Winterville, NC, Sarasota, FL, and Ocean Pines, MD. Dr. Passwater’s family shared that he was voted Citizen of the Year by his community (Ocean Pines, MD, 1987), and was inducted into the Delmarva Firefighter’s Hall of Fame (1993) after serving 25 years as a volunteer EMT and firefighter including 10 years as Chief of the Ocean Pines Volunteer Fire Department (OPVFD). He was a Founding Advisor of Atlantic General Hospital, a member of the American Chemical Society since 1959, and a Fellow of the American Institute of Chemistry.

He enjoyed time with family and friends, photography, genealogy, and Baltimore Orioles and Delmarva Shorebirds games.

Industry members recalled Dr. Passwater as an industry icon.

“It is a great loss to lose a friend and colleague who I have known for 37 years,” shared Howard Wainer, President of WholeFoods Magazine. “He has never missed a Vitamin Connection column, and I remember going into so many natural products stores and seeing his column posted to the wall. It is great sorrow. I hope those who have enjoyed his work read this and pay tribute to Dr. Passwater.”

“Dick has been a friend and part of my family for as long as I can remember,” said Heather Wainer, WholeFoods Magazine Publisher and VP of Media. “We were always so proud to have Vitamin Connection as one of our columns, and it has remained a favorite of our readers for decades. I loved his excitement for each new interview, with such anticipation and dedication to sharing the latest science. And his passion for baseball was the same, Going to an Orioles game with him and his wife Barbara was special. We will truly miss him.”

Mike Shuck, President of Thinking Ahead Consulting Group and former Vice President of Sales for Solgar, where he worked with Dr. Passwater, shared, “I had the honor of working with Richard (Dick) for 15 years during my tenure at Solgar. He belongs on the Mt. Rushmore of industry icons. His passion for his work was second to none. But more importantly, he was a kind man who was beloved by everyone. I truly cherished his friendship and will miss him dearly.”

Solgar’s Kristin Donofrio, Marie Kendall, Douglas Millar, and Dana Tarello also shared their memories and condolences. “It was a true honor and pleasure working alongside Dr. Passwater. His passion and dedication to the natural products industry was extraordinary. He was a true pioneer and innovator, and in that, he touched the lives of countless retailers and consumers around the world. Our industry will be forever grateful for his inspiring research, writing and advocacy. Our deepest sympathies to the Passwater family.”

Barrie Tan, Ph.D., Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of American River Nutrition, said of his friend and colleague for some 30+ years: In life – his demeanor was always approachable; To the scientist – his work was inspiring, as was his unspoken axiom to expand and share our knowledge as professionals who care about the common good and seek to explain mutual health benefits; To the layperson – his contributions were enriching and useful, in particular because he sought to communicate complex research clearly and help science be understood…and I will miss him in all these levels.”

Victor Ferrari, CEO Horphag Research, shared, “Our hearts are saddened by the recent loss of Dr. Richard Passwater. We at Horphag Research had the pleasure of collaborating with him for more than 30 years on various projects including groundbreaking research discoveries, six educational books on Pycnogenol and decades of enlightening conversations and interviews for his Vitamin Connection column published in WholeFoods Magazine. Dr. Passwater was truly an industry pioneer and a brilliant scientist. We have lost a great colleague and a treasured friend. We will miss him dearly. Our thoughts continue to be with his wife Barbara and sons.”

Also honoring his contribution to advancing our understanding and knowledge, WholeFoods Legal Editor Scott C. Tips said, “Dr. Passwater always had the amazing knack of transforming any subject he discussed – no matter how inherently dull it might seem on the surface – into the most fascinating and intriguing bit of useful knowledge ever. His column, not my own, was invariably the first I would rush to read with each issue of WholeFoods Magazine. His wisdom, insight, and basic good commonsense never wavered from the straight and true. He will be sorely missed.”

Mark Blumenthal, Founder & Executive Director, American Botanical Council, shared, “Dr. Richard Passwater was a pioneer in nutritional biochemistry education. Back in the years when we both wrote monthly columns for WholeFoods Magazine—he on nutritional items and I on herbs and botanical issues—he was the first person to introduce the dietary supplement industry, including me, to the emerging science on Pycnogenol, now one of the most well-researched botanical ingredients in the world. When we would meet at trade shows and conferences, he was always very kind, accessible, and generous with his time—an intelligent, decent, and wonderful man! He was a true asset to the natural foods and dietary supplement community.”

Longtime colleague Andrew W. Saul, Editor-in-Chief, Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, shared, “It was Dr. Richard Passwater who first brought an important idea to me in the mid-1970s, in his wonderful book Supernutrition: Megavitamin Revolution. He said, ‘To determine your personal supplement doses, start taking them and see if you feel better. If you do, take a little more. If you’re feeling still better, then use the higher dose. If you don’t feel any better, go to the lower dose that gets the most results.’ I just love that. It’s so simple. We can all do this, and should.”
Some of Dr. Passwater’s most recent work can be read in his popular Vitamin Connection column.

Dr. Passwater is preceded in death by his parents Stanley Sr. and Mabel King Passwater, and his brother Stanley Passwater, Jr. He leaves behind his wife of 57 years, Barbara, their two children Richard Alan (Myriam) and Michael (Ellen), two grandchildren Matt (Chelsea) and Thomas, and two great-grandchildren Audrey and Jamison; as well as a nephew and many loving cousins. The family expressed their appreciation of the care provided by ECU Health, Physicians East, and Pruitt Hospice.

The family shared that a memorial service will be held at Bishop-Hastings Funeral Home in Selbyville, DE on May 14, 2022, with visitation from 11 am – 1pm, service to follow. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the OPVFD, your local fire department, PANCAN or Vitamin Angels.

This article will be updated with more tributes from Dr. Passwater’s industry friends and colleagues.

Remembering industry leaders:
In Memoriam: Debra Stark, Debra’s Natural Gourmet

In Memoriam: William F. Sardi, 1945-2022
In Memoriam: Steven Foster, Renowned Herbalist, Photographer, Author
Remembering Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Dietary Supplement Industry Champion