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Dr David M Prescott (1926-2011)

It is sad news that David Prescott, one of the doyens of cell biology, died in February 2011. Although born in Florida, his schooling and tertiary education was in Connecticut, the Wesleyan University, and the University of California. His post-doctoral work took him to Copenhagen before returning to California (Los Angeles). A blossoming career meant that he went on to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and subsequently to the University of Colorado at Boulder as, in time, a co-founder of the Institute of Developmental Biology. Many cell biologists will recall not only his erudite research publications, but the many books he wrote or co-authored with other distinguished cell biologists. He has a wide range of interests, working in the field of cancer cell biology and protozoology. He was President of the American Society for Cell Biology and the Society of Protozoologist in his time, and an American Cancer Society Scholar. After many prestigious prizes, he was elected as a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and also to the National Academy of Sciences. His hobbies were as wide-ranging as his research interests. He was a man for all occasions, admired and loved by many. Here are two colleagues who wish to record the following memories:

"As my major in Graduate School was David Prescott, he was always there for me but allowed me the freedom to follow my own reseach interests. I followed him from graduate school to a post-doctoral position in his laboratory at the Oak Ridge National Laboratories. He then accepted an offer as Chair at the U. of Colorado Medical School at Denver. He offered me a faculty position there in Denver but I told him that if I followed him there he would only move again. Indeed he did move on to a position at Bolder.

David was a wonderful mentor, and I and many others are thankful for the positive role he played in our lives. David's scientific contributions are well known and rank of the highest calibre. Thank you, David, for all you have done for me and for Cell Biology."
Ivan L. Cameron
Professor Emeritus,
Cellular and Structural Biology, UTHSCSA

As a second tribute, one of his early post-doctoral students wrote the following:

"In my opinion, the Eukaryotic Cell Cycle was the major contribution that David made to cell biology. In addition to this book, he investigated together with his many co-workers this topic using most original methodologies in a variety of cellular models. For example, with Lester Goldstein he published several studies on "Proteins in Nucleocytoplasmic Interactions". In these studies on Amoeba proteus, they developed a method of pushing nuclei from one cell to another with a microprobe under a microscope. This was combined with pre- or post-radioactive labeling of DNA, RNA and proteins to demonstrate metabolic pathways under different circumstances (all this happened prior to cell fusion methodologies). Furthermore, being critical of Zeuthen's heat shock method to synchronize the cell cycle of Tetrahymena because the treatment introduced abnormal phenomena, David developed a method of quickly collecting Tetrahymena cells in division with a micropipette. These cells were synchronized for the next few cell cycles in which he examined many cell cycle phenomena under normal cell growth conditions.

During 1967-68, I spent two years as a post-doc in David Prescott's lab. He had just moved to Boulder, Colorado. I was a beginner, having just finished my Ph.D. thesis at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel. It was my first visit with my wife Noemi to the US, along with our baby daughter, Ruth.

David Prescott welcomed us, helped with initial arrangements, and then I started my laboratory studies. I concentrated on studying the timing of DNA in Amoeba proteus, mainly by radioautographic methodologies. David's attitude towards developing new experimental methodologies was well known. Together with his co-workers he developed many new experimental methods, as well as being the editor of many volumes of "Methods in..." I was one of those co-workers and we contributed a chapter about the sensitivity of radioautographic emulsions.

Our son Johnnie, who was born in Boulder, had some health problems during his early childhood and was hospitalized for a while in Denver. When Dave heard about it, he called me and said: "Arie, the health of your son is now more important! Stay with him and come back after his recovery".

About 5 years ago, we returned to the US and paid a visit to Gayle and David Prescott who had now retired. We spent a very pleasant afternoon together and I told David again how much I had valued his advice and guidance during my ensuing career. On this visit Dave and Gayle told us about both their sons, and their successful professional lives. Dave ended by saying:"I am proud of their achievements; however, I am most proud that both are fine men". He indeed was a wonderful person and we will deeply miss him."
Arie Ron
Emeritus Professor
Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem

ISSN Print: 1065-6995
ISSN Electronic: 1095-8355
Published by Portland Press Limited on behalf of the International Federation for Cell Biology (IFCB)