Written by: Melissa Freeman
Socrates Litsios passed away on May 5, 2021 in Chamblon, Switzerland, surrounded by his family. Socco, as he was called, was born in New York City on February 11, 1937. The son of Greek immigrants from Kozani, Argyrios Litsios and Theodora Makris, he was the youngest of five. Socco lived in Hell’s Kitchen before moving to Inwood in 1943. He attended Stuyvesant High School, graduating in 1952, was then accepted to Cooper Union’s School of Engineering graduating with a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering in 1956. There he met his wife, Susi. They married in 1957 after she graduated with a Bachelor in Fine Arts from the Cooper Union School of Art. Susan Clarke Litsios was born in Philadelphia in 1937 and died October 23, 2017 in Chamblon, Switzerland, with Socco at her side.
After graduating from Cooper Union, Socco attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology while working for several research labs, earning a Doctor of Science in 1963. In 1967, after being recommended by a friend for a position at the World Health Organization (WHO), he was hired as Chief of Operational Research in the Division of Research and Communication Sciences. This was a legendary division seeking to innovate public health by bringing people from different disciplines together. This meant relocating with his family of five children to Geneva, Switzerland, where a sixth child would be born later.
Socco held various senior positions in Primary Health Care, the Malaria Action Program, and the Division of Control of Tropical Diseases before retiring in 1997. He traveled widely and is the author of The Tomorrow of Malaria (1996), Plague Legends: From the Miasmas of Hippocrates to the Microbes of Pasteur (2001), two books on WHO’s history, the third and fourth decades (2009 & 2012), as well as numerous papers. He loved classical music, played the piano all of his life, watched sports of all kind, and relished time with his grandchildren. Socrates was predeceased by his wife of 60 years, Susan (1937-2017), and his eldest son, Kenneth (1958-2015). He leaves behind his children Steven, Melissa, James, Rebecca and Valerie, as well as 15 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.