American Philosophical Society
Member History

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2. Biological Sciences[X]
207. Genetics[X]
1Name:  Dr. Ray D. Owen
 Institution:  California Institute of Technology
 Year Elected:  1984
 Class:  2. Biological Sciences
 Subdivision:  207. Genetics
 Residency:  Resident
 Living? :   Deceased
 Birth Date:  1915
 Death Date:  September 21, 2014
Ray David Owen was born in 1915 on a dairy farm in Wisconsin and remembers that a farm was a great place to grow up. He attended Genesee State Graded School (two teachers, eight grades) and then commuted to Waukesha High School, doing farm chores before and after school. Then he went to Carroll College, a Presbyterian Church-connected liberal arts college also in Waukesha, majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry, math, English and French. In 1937, he entered graduate school at the University of Wisconsin and took his Ph.D. in genetics in 1941. He joined the work in dairy cattle blood group inheritance that was to shape his research career in the fields of immunology and genetics. In 1946, on leave from the faculty of the University of Wisconsin, he went to Caltech as a Gosney Fellow; in 1947 he accepted appointment as an Associate Professor of Biology at Caltech, and with the exception of a year's leave at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 1956-57, he had been at Caltech ever since. He has published numerous research papers, mainly in the fields of mammalian genetics and immunology and in such areas as tissue and organ transplantations and developmental studies, some with relation to cancer. General Genetics, the textbook he wrote with Adrain Srb of Cornell University, was for many years the most-used textbook in the field. He values several honorary degrees and awards. During most of the 1960s he served as Chairman of the Division of Biology at Caltech. From 1975-80 he was Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Affairs as well as a Professor of Biology. He taught a freshman course, Current Research in Biology; a laboratory course in immunology; and courses in general biology and in genetics A member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and numerous other professional societies and organizations, he had served as President of the Genetics Society of America, as a member of the Board of directors of the American Society of Human Genetics, and as a member of the Editorial Board of the Annual Review of Genetics. He frequently held responsibilities at the national level - for example, as Chairman of the Genetics Study Section of the National Institutes of Health, of the Genetics Training Committee of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, of the Advisory Council of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and of the advisory board in Biology and Medical Sciences of the National Science Foundation. For three years he was the "Scientist-Member" of the three-person President's Cancer Panel, acting in an advisory capacity to Presidents Nixon and Ford. He says that many aspects of his life have given him pleasure: his family, his home and garden (he specializes in camellia and chrysanthemums), his travels and his friends in the international community of scientists, his research, his teaching, and his students, in whose happy and productive lives he has found part of his own fulfillment. If he were to single out one particular activity he remembers with pride, it would probably be his chairmanship of an ad-hoc faculty committee on the freshman year at Caltech, whose work led to three good changes: the inauguration of pass/fail grading to make the adjustment to Caltech less traumatic for its freshman; the introduction of electives into a previously rigid freshman curriculum; and, especially, the admission of women to Caltech's freshman class. Ray D. Owen died September 21, 2014, at the age of 98 in Pasadena, California.
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