Edward Butts Lewis

A Tribute to Edward B. Lewis (Credits: Soumi Bhattacharyya)
  • By Shubhamay Das, IISER Kolkata (20 May 2021)

Edward B. Lewis was an American geneticist who helped in the foundation of the field of evolutionary developmental biology.

His Nobel Prize-winning study is with Drosophila, (including the discovery of the Drosophila Bithorax complex of homeotic genes, and elucidation of its function), founded the field of evolutionary developmental biology and laid the groundwork for our current understanding of the universal, evolutionarily conserved strategies controlling animal development. He is credited with the development of the complementation test. His key publications in the fields of genetics, developmental biology, radiation and cancer are presented in the book Genes, Development and Cancer, which was released in 2004.

Ed used to work with Drosophila and Drosophila research had its ups and downs; during the phage heyday, Ed received little attention. But he never veered from his path. Nevertheless, over the years, he began to attract attention as his pioneering work came to be appreciated. Ed was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, American Philosophical Society, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Royal Society of London. He was, successively, secretary, vice-president, and president of the Genetics Society of America. He received essentially all the honours that a geneticist can aspire to. These included the Morgan Medal of the Genetics Society of America, the Wolf Prize, the National Medal of Science, the Lasker Award, and finally in 1995 the Nobel Prize, which he shared with Christine Nüsslein-Volhard and Eric Wieschaus. Although his style was to work a problem thoroughly before publishing and to write sparingly, he nevertheless authored over 50 articles, all solid and several of the classics.

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