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Saul Ben Needleman


[Obituary courtesy of Carl Wolf and Robert D. Leonard, Jr.]

Dr. Saul Ben Needleman, age 91, passed away July 18, 2019. He became member 882 of the Chicago Coin Club April 10, 1974, but allowed his membership to lapse in recent years because ill health prevented him from attending meetings. He served as President twice (1979, 1983-86), received the Literary Award four times and the Medal of Merit in 1994. A frequent exhibitor at meetings, he was recognized with five Honorable Mention Cabeen Exhibit Awards. As President, he strove to have worthwhile educational programs at every meeting, twice speaking himself. However, his most lasting contribution to the Club was to invite both eminent numismatists and club members to contribute papers which he edited and had published as Perspectives in Numismatics, a 364-page festschrift issued in 1986 in honor of the Club’s 800th meeting. 

Dr. Needleman also held memberships in the American Numismatic Association (for a time he was a District Representative), American Numismatic Society, Royal Numismatic Society, British Numismatic Society, American Israel Numismatic Association, Central States Numismatic Society, Israel Numismatic Society of Illinois, Morton Grove Coin Club, and Lake County Coin Club; he held office in some of these local clubs. 

One of his passions was education. He expressed his love of history, numismatics and research by giving numerous talks before groups at the local and national level. He exhibited at major coin conventions, taking Second Place in his class at the 1973 Greater New York and 1984 Central States conventions, First Place in class at the 1984 ANA convention, and Best in Show at the 1978 Greater New York Convention with “a complex exhibit employing custom-made coin mounts with mirrors to highlight both sides of the coin displayed.”

Though his numismatic interests were wide, he concentrated on ancient coinage, English hammered coinage, coins of Israel, and Judaica in Numismatics. This last numismatic passion led to write Use of God’s Name: Jehovah on Coins, Medals, Tokens and Jetons, a 428-page book published in 2002. In addition to his numismatic books, he has 18 unique entries in the library catalog of the American Numismatic Society: articles published in The Numismatist, Seaby Coin and Medal Bulletin, The Shekel, Journal of Numismatic Fine Arts, TAMS Journal, The Centinel, and Perspectives in Numismatics itself.

His father, Jack Needleman, boasted of deceiving the eunuch who collected tolls on the Galata Bridge in Istanbul about 1920 by pressing the bridge token into his palm very hard, then removing it quickly; he later taught languages in Cuba using the immersion method, claiming to be the inventor of the system popularized by Berlitz, before moving to Chicago where Saul was born September 25, 1927.

Dr. Needleman graduated in 1945 from Murray F. Tuley High School (now Roberto Clemente High School); received a BS, Organic Chemistry, Illinois Institute of Technology (1950); MS, Biochemistry, Illinois Institute of Technology (1955); and PhD, Biochemistry and Medicine, Northwestern University (1957). His career in biochemistry included: Chief of Nuclear Medicine, VA Research Hospital, Chicago; Coordinator Science Affairs, Abbott Labs, North Chicago; Director Clinical Affairs Schering-Plough, Memphis; Medical Expert US Navy Drug Program, Great Lakes Naval Station; Associate Professorship Biochemistry and Neurology, Northwestern University, Evanston; and Chairman, Department of Biochemistry, Roosevelt University, Chicago. Dr. Needleman received numerous professional awards, held patents in biochemistry and medicine. He is well-known in the bioinformatics field for the Needleman-Wunsch algorithm, used to align protein or nucleotide sequences. He published 14 scientific works in addition to his two books on numismatics. More about his professional accomplishments can be found at Ramah/Saul_Needleman/.

Besides his research and writing, Dr. Needleman was a talented artist and sculptor. During his residence in Japan, he also became interested in Japanese art. He is survived by Sondra, his wife of 65 years, and children Marty, Arthur, Beth, Heidi and six grandchildren. A graveside service was held at Shalom Memorial Park, Arlington Heights.


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