Monday, April 07, 2008

Passing of Jeremy Knowles

I write with sadness that Jeremy Knowles has passed away. Knowles was a Professor at Harvard, had been Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard, and an HHMI Trustee, among many things. I did not know him well, but I did have a recent scientific exchange with him regarding analysis we were doing of the Tetrahymena genome. Knowles has asked a question to Peter Bruns, who is a Tetrahymena guru (and also was at HHMI). The question related to intron splice junctions and whether that might support a paper he had written in 1992. The science here is not important.

I wrote back, basically saying we were sequencing the genome but alas our data might not be useful for his question since most of what we were doing at the time was predicting gene splice sites not actually determining them for real. And I said, in fact, much of the data in Genbank was also predictions not real cDNAs.

I expected him to be a bit disappointed. But instead, he wrote back to Peter:
Thank you! Jonathan's response confirms that I was right to ask an expert. For if I had gone fishing in the gene bank pool, I should probably have drowned. I shall wait, calmly.
What I was struck with was his sense of humor and warmth, which emanated from this and a few other simple email messages. Based on these communications, I was looking forward to interacting with him again as we are now writing up a paper including all of our new cDNA data (real sequences, not predictions). I am sorry to see him go.


  1. Hello Jonathan,
    Thank you for posting this exchange with Jeremy. You might like to know that your effort has been located and read aloud at a post memorial dinner party with some of his nearest and dearest friends and family. We are all so thrilled to read of exchanges that people had with him. Professor E. J. Corey's remarks at his memorial service were titled Unfinished Conversations, of which yours is a clear example. It brings us sadness and yet we are also touched.

    Most sincerely,
    Jennifer Watt

  2. I am deeply moved by this. I pondered for a while about whether it was OK to post his messages but in the end I felt so touched by him that I wanted to share.


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