Dr. Mehler's Archives
Jerry Hirsch, a pioneer in the field of behavior genetics and crusader for social justice, died Saturday May 3 in his home in Urbana, Illinois. He was 85.
Jerry Hirsch is remembered by his many graduate students as a scientist of great integrity whose entire motivation in life was the search for truth. Professor Hirsch supported his research labs for over four decades with a string of prestigious grants. Besides running his fly labs, he also established the Program for the Study of Institutional Racism which brought scholars from various disciplines together to study racism in American society.
Professor Hirsch studied the genetic component in the behavior of Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly). He focused his research on discriminative conditioning, excitatory states and tropisms (photo- & geo-taxes). Outside the lab, he was a tireless champion for social justice debunking the intellectual foundations of racism in science and society. While others made cavalier claims about the "heritability" of intelligence and vaguely defined character traits, Hirsch spent five decades looking for genes correlated to behaviors in the fruit fly. His opposition to racist claims in science was not motivated by ideology. His critiques were focused squarely on flaws in their science. Hirsch believed that behavior genetics was the search for genes and the analysis how those genes actually effected the behavior.
We are establishing a memorial page in his honor. Those wishing to post a remembrance or contribute to the memorial are welcome to contact Dr. Mehler.