Richard Shaw (1924 – 2015)

May 16th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

My father died May 13, in hospice. One day short of his ninety-first birthday. His career as a geneticist was a troubled one, resulting in the many moves our family made over the years, as described in this memoir. He was a real scientist, though: while still a graduate student he made an important discovery relating to the sex ratio in population genetics. It is now known as the Shaw-Mohler equation, but recognition of its importance came too late to help him in his career. He also had aspirations as a writer. The following passage shows something of his careful eye and view of the natural world:

“The fruit fly, Drosophila, was also known as the wine fly, because it inhabited wineries as well as kitchens and grocery stores. It looked a little like an ordinary fly, except for being much smaller and slower in the air. It was habitual for Drosophila workers to anesthetize the flies and examine them under a low power microscope. Seen that way, Drosophila females showed a yellow body and males showed a dark abdomen. They both had bright red eyes. Under slightly higher magnification you could see the transparent wings and black wing veins, the delicate bristles, and the details of the body, legs, and antennae. A delightful and beautiful creature it was to see.”

The early chapters, about growing up in Redlands, California in the twenties and thirties, are particularly good. The things he notices and chooses to mention are often surprising.

I will miss him.

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