lawrence bogorad - American Philosophical Society



lawrence bogorad - American Philosophical Society
29 august 1921 . 28 december 2003
VOL. 150, NO. 2, JUNE 2006
biographical memoirs
AWRENCE BOGORAD, Maria Moors Cabot Professor of Biology Emeritus at Harvard University, died unexpectedly from
a stroke while vacationing with his family in Puerto Vallarta,
Mexico, on 28 December 2003. Beginning in the 1960s, Laurie Bogorad was at the vanguard in the application of the techniques of molecular biology to problems in plant biology, especially with regard to genes
located in and coding for proteins in the chloroplast, and became a
strong leader in science and very influential in science policy.
Laurie will be remembered both for his groundbreaking contributions in science and for his extraordinarily fine personal qualities. In science, his work led to an understanding of the biogenesis of chloroplasts
and the photosynthetic apparatus in plants, algae, and cyanobacteria.
As a person, he will be honored by his many friends and five decades of
graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and visiting scientists who trained
in his lab and whom he mentored, through example and unfailing support, into productive careers of their own.
Among his many honors, Bogorad was elected to the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1968, the National Academy of Sciences in 1971, the Royal Danish Academy of Science and Letters (as a
foreign member) in 1977, and the American Philosophical Society in
1985. He cherished most the Quantrell Award for Excellence in undergraduate education that he received in 1959, and he was honored with
the Stephen Hales Award from the American Society of Plant Physiologists in 1982. Shortly before his death he learned that he was to be given
the Medical and Biological Sciences Alumni Distinguished Service Award
by the University of Chicago. The honor was bestowed posthumously
in June 2004.
Lawrence Bogorad was born in Tashkent, in what is now Uzbekistan,
on 29 August 1921, and came to the United States when he was two
with his parents, Boris and Florence (neé Bernard) Bogorad. He grew
up in Chicago and attended the University of Chicago, but only through
the intervention of a customer on his ice delivery route who had connections at the university. Learning that Laurie had been accepted but
without financial aid, so was planning to enroll in a local college, he
arranged for a full scholarship.
After graduating in 1942 Laurie served in the U.S. Army, and was
married to Rosalyn (neé Sagen) in 1943. After the war he returned to
the University of Chicago, earned a Ph.D. degree in botany in 1949,
and was appointed as an instructor there in 1948. In 1951 he took a
leave to carry out research in Sam Granick’s lab at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, where he initiated studies of the pathway of
porphyrin biosynthesis. He continued and expanded this after returning to the University of Chicago as an assistant professor in 1953.
lawrence bogorad
Always curious, energetic, and incessantly active, Laurie diversified
his research projects while his students increased in number. His work
included studies of the synthesis of pigments in plants and cyanobacteria and the physiology of chromatic adaptation in cyanobacteria, but
when evidence for the presence of DNA in chloroplasts appeared in the
1960s, Bogorad immediately understood the importance of determining the role of this genetic material in plastid biogenesis and physiology, and he turned his experimental focus to investigate this. Initially in
collaboration with Henson Swift, he began detailed studies of chloroplast DNA, ribosomes, and RNA synthesis. This research emphasis also
fueled Bogorad’s personal fascination with the evolutionary pathway that
connects modern-day chloroplasts with their cyanobacterium-related
endosymbiont ancestors.
In 1967 Bogorad moved to Harvard University; by that time the tools
of molecular biology were becoming sufficiently sharp to permit their
use in the study of chloroplast biogenesis and function. With a focus
on the molecular mechanisms of transcription and its control in chloroplasts, Bogorad’s group led the way into plant molecular biology, making key contributions in a number of areas. In 1971, they were among
the first to provide strong evidence that genes encoding proteins localized in the chloroplast were located in both the nucleus and the chloroplast, and later identified and characterized nuclear genes involved in
chloroplast biogenesis and function. They constructed the first restriction map of chloroplast DNA (maize, in 1976) and determined the first
complete DNA sequence of a chloroplast gene for a known protein
(rbcL). Based on DNA sequences, they were also the first to show that
a key component of the photosynthetic apparatus, the reaction center
proteins of Photosystem I, were encoded in two closely related but distinct genes (psaA and psaB). This latter finding was particularly important for studies of photosynthesis because it provided the first definitive
evidence that Photosystem I was composed of a heterodimeric core,
analogous to the structures of Photosystem II and bacterial photosynthetic reaction center complexes.
At critical junctures in the development of the fields that excited
him, Bogorad helped to organize influential symposia. At Strasbourg in
1976, he and Jacques-Henry Weil organized an advanced workshop
and symposium on nucleic acids and protein synthesis in plants, and in
1984 he helped to organize a symposium on the molecular biology of
the photosynthetic apparatus, at Cold Spring Harbor. In both cases,
the discussions and published proceedings helped galvanize the efforts
of the international community of investigators at just the time when
technical advances had opened broad new horizons.
Bogorad took seriously the many responsibilities that his scientific
biographical memoirs
success thrust on him, and in doing so exercised great foresight and
productive leadership. He served as president of the American Society
of Plant Physiologists from 1968 to 1969, the Society for Developmental Biology in 1983, and the American Association for the Advancement
of Science, the nation’s largest scientific society, with 140,000 members, in 1987. Over the years he was on editorial boards of more than a
dozen scientific journals, and served on the National Science Foundation’s advisory committee and grants review panel for several years. As
a member of the Council on Food and Agricultural Sciences of the U.S.
Department of Agriculture, his influence was essential in the establishment of the council’s first competitive grants program and in setting
high standards of scientific review. At the memorial service for Laurie,
Mary Clutter of the National Science Foundation spoke of “his signal
efforts to promote plant biology as a frontier science that is just as
important for our nation as biomedicine,” and said that “his words
carried the weight needed to win the day, especially for a competitive
program for photosynthesis research.”
At the National Academy of Sciences he was chair of the botany
section and served a term on the council of the Academy and on some
thirteen committees, including the highest-ranking one, Science, Engineering, and Public Policy. From 1991 to 1995, he was editor and chair
of the editorial board of the Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences, where he initiated many changes in the review process to
increase its rigor and focus on original new research, and effected a
change in its cover from dull gray to far more useful and esthetically
pleasing color images related to articles. At the memorial, Frank Press,
the president of the Academy from 1980 to 1992, characterized Laurie
as “an unflagging individual who achieved world recognition as a beloved
teacher, an honored researcher, and an indefatigable advocate of the
uses of science for the public good.”
Bogorad was one of the first scientists to recognize the power of
molecular biology to generate improvements in agriculture, and he
pushed for accelerated investments in the necessary basic research by
agribusiness, arguing that this would escalate scientific discovery leading to new products. He played an important role in the founding of
Advanced Genetic Systems, Inc., one of the first publicly traded agricultural biotechnology companies, and served on its science advisory
board during its early growth phase. He also served on the science
advisory board of Plant Genetic Systems in Belgium, as an adviser to
the Rockefeller Foundation, and more recently on the board of directors of the Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell.
As a mentor to young scientists, Bogorad had a style that earned
him their devotion. He was constantly upbeat and supportive of their
lawrence bogorad
work and pushed them to develop new projects of their own, so that
they felt independent and vested in their projects. Activity on so many
different projects also contributed to the excitement and sense of adventure within his lab as it kept at the forefront of a field that was undergoing rapid progress and great technical change. He even treated the
tragic fire that destroyed much of the lab in 1984 as an opportunity to
abandon some projects and initiate new ones.
Laurie was a warm, gregarious, and generous person whose manner
of living was informed by his feelings of optimism and gratitude. Sophisticated in his appreciation of the ways of the world and the foibles of
individual personalities, he was nevertheless confident in his ability to
succeed in endeavors to which he dedicated himself. The optimism of
his character inspired him constantly to embrace new challenges. In so
doing he inspired others to do the same. He was profoundly grateful
for both the talents that he possessed and the opportunities that he had
been given, and was especially grateful to be an American, living in a
country so different from that of his birth. He loved the opportunities
provided by the American educational system and the American scientific establishment, the beauty of the country, and the amazing talents
of the Gershwins, the Marx brothers, and Fred Astaire. Until the day
he died, he had an interminable list of things he wanted to do, places
he wanted to visit, and books he wanted to read. Writing of his own
career decisions in 2001, he said, “. . . my worst career error was to be
born too early! I will miss the next exciting chapter in biology. This
one has been wonderful to behold!”
Bogorad is survived by his wife, Rosalyn, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease; by his daughter, Kiki Bogorad-Gross, of Newton,
Massachusetts; by his son, Leonard, of Bethesda, Maryland; by four
grandchildren; and by his partner, Kathleen Mullinix.
Elected 1985; Committees: Advisory on Election of Members 1999–2001; Membership II 1994–2001; Michaux Fund 1988–91
J. Woodland Hastings
Paul C. Mangelsdorf Professor of Natural Sciences
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Harvard University
Laurens Mets
Associate Professor of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology
University of Chicago

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