The Contributions of Milislav Demerec to Modern Genetics

Milislav DemerecMilislav Demerec is a renowned scientist in the field of genetics. He was of Croatian-American descent, born on 11th January 1895 and died on 12th April 1966. From 1940 to 1960 he was the director in the department of genetics in Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory.

Demerec spent the better part of his childhood in Croatia, then Austia-Hungary. He earned his higher education in a College based in Krizevci from where he graduated in 1916. After working in the Krizevci experiment station for some time he furthered his education by attending the School of Agriculture in Grinon, France immediately after World War I. He moved to U.S.A in 1919 to complete his PhD at the Cornell University. His thesis was on maize genetics. He finalized his PhD in 1923.

Contribution to Science.

His contribution to science was mainly in organism genetics. As the head of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, he concluded his thesis from his PhD to show ten distinct alleles that were responsible for albinism in maize kernels. He further expanded his research to the genetics of the Delphinium plant and the fruit fly Drosophila virilis to investigate mosaicism.

His legacy is as a Drosophila researcher. He launched a Newsletter called the Drosophila Information Service in 1934 with Calvin Bridges. He also pioneered, alongside other scientists, in the initial field of X-ray- and UV- induced mutations and wrote publications with Emily Zimmer, one of the most prominent researchers in the field of bacterial and bacteriophage genetics.

Later in the 1940s Demerec’s direction changed as he ventured into genetics of bacteria and their viruses. He applied his understanding of bacterial genetics to escalate the produce from penicillium. He also researched on antibiotic resistance.

In his lifetime, Milislav Demerec wrote many publications including research papers. He was the founding editor of Advances in Genetics, the first publication to appraise the results of modern genetics. Among his many achievements, he was appointed to many scientific panels including the committee on the Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation under the National Academy of sciences and served various departments in different capacities. He served in the capacity of director of the Long Island Biological Association Laboratory in 1941 and the director of the department of genetics in the Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory. He held both of these posts until he retired in 1960. He was also elected as a member of the American Philosophical Society. He played a crucial role in the American society of Genetics, markedly as the president. He spent his retirement working in the Brookhaven National Library and briefly before his demise served as a research professor at Long Island University.

Demerec was known for his efficiency as he used means and tools that served him best in his research. He always turned to new organisms or tools if they offered him better prospect for genetic analysis. He was applauded for his great propensity for organization, landing him in many prestigious posts. He is credited for promoting the sprouting field of molecular biology. Modern genetics owes a lot to his unending efforts in the early field of genetics.