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William D. McElroy MA ’41

William D. McElroy MA ’41, February 17, 1999, in San Diego. He was a pioneering research biologist and former chancellor of the University of California, San Diego. His undergraduate degree was earned at Stanford University, and he went on to earn a PhD in biology and biochemistry from Princeton University in 1941. In 1946, he joined the faculty of Johns Hopkins University, where he discovered the enzyme that makes fireflies light up. He taught there for more than 20 years and chaired the biology department until 1969, when he was appointed head of the National Science Foundation. In 1972 he left that agency to become chancellor of the University of California, San Diego. While chancellor, he served for two years as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and kept up his research interests in the area of bioluminescence. He resigned as chancellor in 1980 to pursue research, writing, and teaching biology. During his career he served as consultant to the Atomic Energy Commission and on numerous national boards. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and several other societies. He is survived by his wife, a son by his second wife, two daughters and two sons by his first wife, and a sister.

Appeared in Reed magazine: May 1999

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