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Distinguished geneticist Bruce Wallace dies at 94

Bruce Wallace

Bruce Wallace, professor emeritus of genetics, died Jan. 12 in Blacksburg, Virginia, at the age of 94 from a stroke-related illness.

In 1958, Wallace joined Cornell as a professor of genetics, a position he held until he left in 1981 to become University Distinguished Professor of Biology at Virginia Tech. He retired in 1994.

Wallace authored more than 100 scientific studies, mostly in the field of population genetics, using Drosophila as a genetic model. He also wrote more than 15 books.

“Professor Wallace was a brilliant educator, making difficult or abstract concepts clear to both the scientist and the public,” said Lee B. Kass, a visiting professor of plant biology in the School of Integrative Plant Science. “He graciously offered his time and assistance to professional societies, yet he was always available for guidance to family, friends and students, often with his wife, Miriam,” who died in 2003, Kass added. 

Wallace was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1970 and was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He served as president of the Genetics Society of America, the American Society of Naturalists, the Society for the Study of Evolution, and the American Genetics Association. He also was an editor of the journal Evolutionary Biology.

Born in McKean, Pennsylvania, Wallace received his bachelor’s degree in zoology in 1941 from Columbia University. His pursuit of a doctorate in genetics was interrupted by World War II, during which he served as a statistical control officer. He completed his doctorate at Columbia University in 1949.

Between 1947 and 1958, he worked at the Biological Laboratory at Cold Spring Harbor, New York, where he held various positions, including assistant director.

He is survived by two children.

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Melissa Osgood