In Memoriam

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Ruth Kavenoff ’66

Ruth Kavenoff ’66, of liver failure, February 13, 199, at USCD Medical Center, Hillcrest, California. She earned a PhD in cell biology from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1971. Her scientific career was devoted to studying the structure of the reovirus genome, which she theorized has a single strand of RNA rather than several fragments, as is the widely accepted view. She did research in the ’70s at the University of California, San Diego, lab and received several fellowships and federal grants for her initial research. However, by the late ’70s and early ’80s, she was unable to obtain continued financial support for her research, which some believed could not be solved. She turned to developing visual displays to illustrate her theories, enlarging the DNA and RNA photographs taken through her electron microscope up to 250,000 times. From these photos came an idea to not only illustrate her work, but also to fund her research using the enlargements to develop a line of posters, cards, and clothing. The lines, with names like DesignerGenes, BlueGenes, and GoodGenes, were sold in bookstores, science mail order houses, and the gift shop of the Federal Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. As the business thrived, she was able to continue her research, but was unable to prove her theory before her death.

Appeared in Reed magazine: May 1999

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