Adam Fagen was formerly Executive Director of the Genetics Society of America.

GSA was saddened to learn about the passing of William Gelbart, a long-time member of the Society, former member of the GSA Board of Directors, former editor for GENETICS, and the 2010 recipient of GSA’s George W. Beadle Award for contributions to the community of genetics researchers.

Bill Gelbart (Photo courtesy Susan Russo)

Bill Gelbart (Photo courtesy Susan Russo)

Bill was professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard University. His laboratory focused on understanding the molecular basis of pattern formation in higher animals, focusing on cell-cell signaling related to the decapentaplegic pathway.

Beyond his many research contributions, Bill is well respected for his leadership in the Drosophila community. He has served as Principal Investigator for FlyBase since the project was initiated in 1991. He was also a trusted advisor to many other community efforts—including WormBase, Zebrafish Information Network, The Arabidopsis Information Resource, and many others—and served on the National Advisory Council for the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Ken Burtis and Brian Oliver demonstrate the love of the community for Bill Gelbart. Photo credit: Adam Fagen.

Ken Burtis and Brian Oliver demonstrate the love of the community for Bill Gelbart. Photo credit: Adam Fagen.

Bill earned his BS in biology from Brooklyn College in 1966 and his PhD in genetics from the University of Wisconsin in 1971. He did postdoctoral work with Ed Lewis at Caltech and Art Chovnick at the University of Connecticut before moving to Harvard in 1976. In addition to his research and teaching during his tenure at Harvard, Bill served as the Head Tutor for the undergraduate concentration in biology and as program director for an interdepartmental predoctoral training program in genetics and genomics.

Bill is survived by his devoted wife, Susan;  his loving daughters Marnie, Courtney, and Jennifer;  his adoring grandchildren Delilah, Theodore, and Amelia; a brother and sister-in-law;  many nieces, nephews and dear friends.   A memorial service honoring Bill will take place at a later date.The family has requested that in in lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the The Greater Boston Food Bank or WGBH (Boston’s PBS station). Those who wish may also donate to GSA in Bill’s memory.


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  1. […] dedicates these inaugural chapters to Bill Gelbart, who is dearly missed, and who will live on in our memories and in our work. Bill was an early […]