Diabates, Expert, HMS Professor Dies at 83

Robert F. Bradley, a diabetes expert who brought awareness of the disease to the courtroom and the classroom, died on Sunday. He was 83.

An associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who led the school’s Joslin Diabetes Center for 10 years, Bradley was also a humble and unassuming man.

“I had no idea what he had accomplished,” said his daughter, Susan Bradley. “He never spoke down to anybody.”

During his 10 years as president, Bradley oversaw the center’s first major expansion, the addition of the Howard F. Root Wing of research and treatment facilities.


Bradley retired from the Joslin Center in 1987 after 38 years there.

A lover of tennis and an avid reader, Bradley was known as an outspoken advocate for patients and promoted the administering of oral agents to treat type 2 diabetes.


“He always stressed the importance of empowering people with diabetes and forwarding the effort to have a more scientific evaluation of how good patient education programs were and how they could be improved,” Joslin President C. Ronald Kahn told The Boston Globe.

Family members and colleagues remembered him for his gentleness and the twinkle in his eye.

He was an editor of the Joslin Textbook of Diabetes and was an expert prosecution witness in the 1985 murder trial of Claus von Bulow, who was accused of murdering his heiress wife with an insulin overdose.

But Bradley’s interests extended beyond his work at the Joslin.

Despite the pressures of his professional career, Bradley still found time to be an avid sports fan—and no one could beat his knowledge of Boston sports history, according to Susan Bradley.

He was a serious man, she added, but his lighter side showed through at home.

“His passion was diabetes and the Joslin, but his love was his family,” she said.

Born in Bridgeport, Conn., Bradley received a bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1941 and graduated from Yale University School of Medicine in 1943.

He served in the Navy from 1944 to 1946, joining the Navy reserves in 1953.

Bradley was president of the Massachusetts Society of Internal Medicine and the New England Diabetes Association and was appointed to the first National Diabetes Advisory Board of the National Institutes of Health from 1977 to 1980.

Bradley is survived by his five children; David Benton Bradley, Robin Tritta, Pamela Roche, Amy Palmer, and Susan Bradley; and five grandchildren. His wife Betty Savacool died in 1996.

A memorial service with be held Friday at 11 a.m. at The Wellesley Hills Congregational Church.