Victor McKusick, "Father of Medical Genetics" 1921 – 2008

From the Genetic Alliance announcement list–I am reprinting in full because although I had met him, I certainly couldn’t write a tribute of this nature:

Dear Colleagues,

It is with great sadness that I inform you that Victor Almon McKusick,
M.D., University Professor of Medical Genetics since 1985, namesake of
the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine at the Johns Hopkins
University School of Medicine, and a towering international figure in
genetics research, diagnosis and treatment, died Tuesday, July 22, at
home. He was 86.

To the world genetics community, Victor has been rightfully honored as
the founding father of medical genetics as a specialty, as well as a
strong mentor by generations of students, trainees and faculty.

Throughout his energetic and long professional career, spent entirely
at Johns Hopkins beginning with medical school, class of 1946, he served
as Osler Professor and chairman of the Department of Medicine and
physician in chief of The Johns Hopkins Hospital from 1973 to 1985. He
was a distinguished cardiologist and executive chief of the
cardiovascular unit at Baltimore Marine Hospital while progressing
rapidly through the ranks in the Johns Hopkins Department of Medicine.

He completed his internship and residency in internal medicine and
training in cardiology here, held joint professorships in epidemiology
in the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health and in biology
at The Johns Hopkins University. In 1957, Victor founded the Division of
Medical Genetics and became a full professor in the Department of
Medicine in 1960.

An early proponent of the complete mapping of the human genome, in 1966
Victor created the first edition of his now classic reference Mendelian
Inheritance in Man, an ever-enlarging compilation of inherited disease
genes, which now exists as OMIM, Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man, a
continuously updated version on the Internet, providing a searchable
database of disease genes’ locations and characteristics.

Victor was the recipient of scores of national and international
prizes, honorary doctorates and accolades, including the 1997 Albert
Lasker Award for Special Achievement in Medical Science, the 2001
National Medal of Science, and the 2008 Japan Price in Medical Genetics
and Genomics. He was the founding president of the Human Genome
Organization and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Visitation is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 1 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., and
from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home, in Towson,
Maryland. A memorial service will be held Saturday, Aug. 2 at 2 p.m. at
the Second Presbyterian Church of Baltimore. Interment will be Friday,
Aug. 8 at 11 a.m. at Pingree Cemetery in Parkman, Maine.

I know that the whole of the Johns Hopkins family joins me in extending
our deepest condolences to his wife, Anne, a retired member of our
faculty; and their children and families.

Edward D. Miller, M.D.
Johns Hopkins Medicine

To read more about the life and work of Victor A. McKusick, M.D., go

European Genetics Foundation:

Lasker Award 1997:

National Academies of the Sciences

Oral History of Human Genetics Project

University of New England
CHP and CAS Honorary Degree Recipients 2008

Memorial University of Newfoundland
World’s best known geneticist visits Memorial

The New York Academy of Medicine 2006

Other Links:

Alas. A giant has left us. But what a great legacy. I remember him describing the original version of OMIM on index cards. From index cards to major impact. A tremendous life.

Link to the Johns Hopkins press release:

UPDATES: links to obituaries in the press

NYT: Victor McKusick, 86, Dies; Medical Genetics Pioneer

LA Times:  Victor A. McKusick, 86; Johns Hopkins physician pioneered genetics research

Washington Post:  Victor McKusick; Genetics Pioneer