05/11/2008 – Dr. Jerry Hirsch, Behavior Geneticist and Outspoken
Critic of the Misuse and Abuse of Genetics, Dies at 85.
Jerry Hirsch died May 3, 2008, at home, age 85, a resident of
Urbana, Illinois since 1960. Dr. Hirsch was born Sep 20, 1922 in New
York City, New York to Molly (Barnett) and Samuel ("S.M.") Hirsch,
and raised in NYC with older sister Ruth. He attended Columbia
Grammar and Prep School in NYC (1934-38), Johns Hopkins Univ
(1938-40), worked in the family textile business (1940-48), and
served in the USA Army Air Corps (1942-43). He attended the Univ of
Paris, France (1949-50) and while there met Marjorie Barrie, also an
American studying at the Sorbonne. Jerry and Marjorie married in
Paris, 1950. In 1956 their son Wesley was born. Surviving are his
wife Marjorie and son Wesley. Jerry Hirsch honored life with his
integrity, perseverance, joy, appreciation of others, kindness, and
a terrific sense of humor.
Dr. Hirsch, credited as "Founder and Pioneer of Behavior-Genetic
Analysis,. was internationally recognized as an outspoken critic of
the misuse and abuse of genetics, particularly as applied to
"intelligence" and racist dogma. "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. (ISAR 2008). Further
information can be found at UIUC Archives at www.library.uiuc.edu/archives, and Institute for
the Study of Academic Racism (ISAR) at www.ferris.edu/isar.
Hirsch received his B.A., highest honors, in 1952; Ph.D. in
Psychology in 1955, Univ of California, Berkeley; a student of R. C.
Tryon, L. J. Postman, E. C. Tolman in Psych and Curt Stern in
Genetics. He became Asst Prof, Psych at Columbia Univ (1956-60), and
was a colleague in Psych, lab assoc in Zoology of Th. Dobzhansky, L.
C. Dunn and H. Levene. He was NIH Fellow, Ctr for Adv Study of Behav
Sci, Stanford Univ (1960-61), Soc Sci Res Council Aux Res Award
recipient (1962), British Sci Council visiting res scholar, Dept of
Zoology, Univ of Edinburgh (1968). In 1960 he joined the Univ of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) Depts of Psychology and Zoology
(EEE, Animal Bio); full Prof in Psych (1963) and Zoology (1966);
Active Emeritus from 1993-2004.
At UIUC Dr. Hirsch taught Comparative Psych and Behav Genetic
Analysis, researched the behavior-genetic component and comparative
analyses of Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly), trained researchers
through the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Biopsychology
Res Training Prog (1966-78), and created and co-directed the NIMH
interdisciplinary Institutional Racism Program (IRP) (1977-86).
The IRP developed minority researchers and trained social,
behavioral and biological scientists as well as educators to
understand and conduct research on both institutional and scientific
racism in relation to mental health in Behav Sciences/Social Behav
Sciences, Genetics/Behav Genetics, and Psych.
Dr. Hirsch debated on college campuses during the 1970s and 80s,
providing direction, stability, and leadership to counter a racist
movement based on race and intelligence which Dr. Hirsch referred to
as, "science without scholarship." In 1994 Dr. Hirsch headed a group
of scholars, black coaches, and politicians to expose and end the
use of racially biased and educationally unjustified SAT and ACT
cutoff scores by the Natl Collegiate Athletic Assoc (NCAA).
In 2002 emerging cDNA microarray technology directed at genetic
sites identified earlier by Hirsch research resulted in the
successful identification of three genes involved in Drosophila
melanogaster geotaxis behavior. In 2003 Dr. Hirsch re-evaluated his
earlier genetic study interpretation and revealed a possible new
benchmark for human genetic uniqueness, diversity, similarity, and
repeatability and illustrated misuses of the concept of
Dr. Hirsch held office, participated in professional
organizations including: Animal Behavior Soc, Behavior Genetics
Assoc, Intl Ethological Conf, Natl Res Council, Psychonomic Soc,
American Psych Assoc, Intl Congress of Psych, Intl Soc for
Comparative Psych, American Assoc for the Adv of Sci. He was also a
member and past president of the UIUC Philosophy Club beginning in
Dr. Hirsch served as Editor of Animal Behaviour (1968-1972),
Behavior Genetics Editorial Advisory Bd (1971-92), Editor for Am
Psych Assoc Journal of Comparative Psychology (1983-88), and Guest
Editor for Genetica Special Issue: "Uses and Abuses of Genetics,.
Dr. Hirsch received the Honorary degree Doctorat Honoris Causa,
U. Rene Descartes (Paris V), France (1987), the Award Officier dans
l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques, Embassy of France to USA (1994), and
the Behavior Genetics Assoc Dobzhansky Award for outstanding senior
research in behavior genetics (2006).
"A Memorial of Statements of Remembrance. will be hosted by Barry
Mehler, at the ISAR website, www.ferris.edu/isar. A Memorial Fund will be set
up at the Univ of Illinois Foundation for gifts of appreciation and
support, 1305 W. Green Street, Urbana, IL, 61801-2962, USA,
Attention: "Jerry Hirsch Memorial Fund."
Published in The News-Gazette on 5/11/2008.