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S. Jonathan Singer: A man who loved ideas and detested walls

  1. Russell F. Doolittlea,b,1
  1. aDepartment of Chemistry & Biochemistry, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0314;
  2. bDepartment of Molecular Biology, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0314

S. Jonathan Singer, “Jon” to one and all, died February 2, 2017, at the age of 92. Educated as a physical chemist, he transitioned gracefully by way of protein and immunochemistry to become a cell and molecular biologist of huge renown. His initial bout with fame came in 1949 when Jon was a postdoctoral fellow with Linus Pauling at the California Institute of Technology and, together with Harvey Itano, showed that sickle cell hemoglobin differed from normal hemoglobin by Tiselius electrophoresis (1). The years at the California Institute of Technology also led Jon into the antibody field by way of a collaboration with the immunologist Dan Campbell, something that would stand him in good stead later. After his postdoctoral stint, Jon was appointed to the faculty at Yale in the Department of Chemistry, where he remained until 1961. At that point Jon joined the microbiologist David Bonner, who was leaving the Yale School of Medicine, to set up an innovative department of biology at a new branch of the University of California, La Jolla in San Diego (UCSD).

S. Jonathan Singer. Image courtesy of Nazneen Dewji (Cenna BioSciences, La Jolla, CA).

Bonner had strong feelings about how molecular biology was changing the teaching of science in general and medicine in particular. His untimely death in May of 1964, forced Jon to take over as department chair. Fortunately, he and Bonner shared the same unbridled and idealistic views of science and education, and Jon set about ensuring that these views became an integral part of the new university. Theirs was …

?1Email: rdoolittle{at}ucsd.edu.

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