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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

James F. Crow, rest in peace

James F. Crow was a good man and a scientist. He passed away a few days ago. (Here is the obituary.) It was my privilege to have taken a class from him, and to serve as an instructor of what were called "quiz sections" under him, while a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, where Crow spent the great majority of his career. He was the leader of the Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) work group while I was at Wisconsin. However, he and his students made important contributions to human medical genetics, too.

Crow was known principally as a teacher, and he was a good one, bringing out the best in his graduate students, and in those he lectured to. He was multi-talented, though. He testified before at least one congressional committee. He wrote books and articles. He played the viola, and did it well. He was an able administrator. He worked with colleagues and graduate students from many nationalities.

Although he was an important person, he was humble, easily reachable, and sometimes serving as the butt of practical jokes. For example, some of his students etherized some fruit flies and put them in his viola, and, during a concert by the Madison symphony orchestra, the flies revived, and flew out of the instrument.

I was sorry to hear of his passing.

3 comments:

Keetha Broyles said...

I believe the text book we used in your Genetics class at SWU, then CWC, was written by Dr. Crow. I remember you telling us at the time that he had been your professor, and I was impressed enough to remember it all these years.

Keetha Broyles said...

Oh, and I remember the viola/fruit fly story too!

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Keetha. Yes, that was Crow's book.