Spring 2016


The late James F. Crow—an outstanding scientist, statesman, public servant and teacher—would surely have been happy with the solution arrived at by his colleagues and friends: a professorship named in his honor to ensure that great work in genetics continues.

The James F. Crow Professorship in Genetics will be made available to attract a world-class scientist to join the faculty in genetics. Endowment earnings will be made available to support the recipient’s research.

The professor who bears the title will build on the legacy of a giant. Crow was a pioneer in genetics. He measured the consequences of mutations—essentially, mistakes in DNA—for humans and other organisms, and he invented models that explain the pattern of DNA differences between individuals.

Crow’s discoveries made many of today’s genetic technologies possible, including commercial services that use DNA to reveal personal genealogy, the criminal justice system’s application of DNA evidence, and public health models that reveal why some diseases are common and others are rare. His work helped establish the University of Wisconsin–Madison as an international leader in genetics.

“Legions of the world’s most renowned geneticists trekked to Madison to visit Jim and meet with the broader community of geneticists on campus,” says John Doebley, genetics professor and chair of the UW–Madison Laboratory of Genetics.

Crow, an active member of the Laboratory of Genetics from 1948 to 2012, seamlessly integrated research with outstanding teaching and a passion for public service. One of his greatest gifts was his enthusiasm and ability to clearly explain genetic concepts to a wide range of audiences. He spoke to people he met in the community with the same admiration and excitement with which he greeted his scientific colleagues.

The professorship will honor Crow’s legacy by ensuring the continuation of discoveries with high societal relevance, notes Doebley. “Jim’s interests spanned the entire range of the field of genetics, but with a penchant for honing in on the most interesting and fundamental questions. As such, we can best honor his memory by following his instincts in this regard.”

You can make a gift to the James F. Crow Professorship in Genetics fund at or contact Kate Bahr at the UW Foundation (tel. 608-308-5120,

A fundraising event for the named professorship will be held on Friday, September 23, 1–9 p.m. More info available soon at

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