James F. Crow

University of Wisconsin-Madison

January 18, 1916 - January 4, 2012

Election Year: 1961
Scientific Discipline: Genetics
Membership Type: Member

James F. Crow studied population genetics for more than seventy years, using the fruit fly Drosophila as his primary research model and extending principles of his research to humans. A recurrent theme in his work was the role of “hidden” variability (genes that lack obvious characteristics) and recessive, deleterious genes in the overall fitness and viability of populations. He developed methods for analyzing the effects of selective breeding and inbreeding on population variability, a model for describing the characteristics that might arise from mutations that never existed before in a population, and theories about the advantages of sexual reproduction and the genesis of altruism.

Crow earned his undergraduate degree in 1937 from Friends University, where he studied biology and chemistry. His PhD work was completed at the University of Texas at Austin in 1941. Following this, Crow taught a variety of courses—genetics, zoology, embryology, comparative anatomy, parasitology, statistics, analytical geometry, and calculus among them—at Dartmouth College between 1941 and 1947. He joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1948 and remained there for the rest of his career.

Crow was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Japan Academy, and the Royal Society of London, and he served with numerous advisory groups for the National Institutes of Health and other government agencies. In addition to honors and awards for his research, Crow was equally renowned for his teaching and mentorship of students and fellow researchers.

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