Heinz Werner Gschwend

June 16, 2019


Heinz Werner Gschwend, 83, of Santa Rosa, CA, passed away on June 16, 2019 with his wife, Cynthia, at his side. Born in Brienz, Switzerland, Heinz went on to study chemistry at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich where he was awarded the coveted Silver Medal for excellence for his doctoral thesis. Heinz then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University with Robert Burns Woodward, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry. Heinz spent over 30 years using his scientific and managerial talents to excel in both the Pharmaceutical and Biotech industries. He rose to the Head of Drug Discovery after 20 years with Ciba Geigy Corp. (now Novartis) where his notable accomplishments were work resulting in the marketed drugs Benazepril for hypertension and Letrozole for breast cancer. Heinz not only published peer reviewed articles in chemistry for decades in his career but filed over 50 patents, even into his
retirement where he remained a valued consultant to many biotech companies. He proudly served as an editor to the journal Organic Reactions for many years and often chaired and organized the academically oriented Gordon Research conferences in Medicinal Chemistry. Heinz mentored many young scientists in his career and is remembered as a “humble giant in the field of chemistry”.

In retirement, Heinz enjoyed the simple pleasures of tending to his fruit trees, chopping wood, playing tennis, hiking by the Sonoma Coast and enjoying the local wineries.

Heinz was a devoted father, grandfather and attentive family man. Musical aptitude was apparent for many generations in Heinz’s family and he expertly played classical pieces on the piano right up to his time of passing. Heinz frequently traveled to his hometown of Brienz Switzerland to visit family, old friends and colleagues and enjoy a hike in the Alps. Heinz had the opportunity to introduce his sons and grandchildren to the beauty of the Bernese Oberland, over many decades.

Son of the late Werner and Leni Gschwend, brother of the late Peter Gschwend (Barbara), Heinz is survived by his brother, Martin Gschwend (Anne) of Nidau, Switzerland, his wife, Cynthia Healy of Santa Rosa, CA, sons Dominik (Rebecca) of Rockledge, Florida, Daniel (Michelle Stith) of Windham, Mass., Gregory of New York, N.Y., Connery of Georgetown, D.C. and three grandchildren, Kyle, Kaelin and Andrew.

Heinz’s final resting place will be in Brienz, Switzerland.

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