December 2, 2004
Vol. 24 No. 6

current issue
archive / search
Chronicle RSS Feed

    Edward Garber, 86, dedicated research to plant genetics

    Edward D. Garber, Professor Emeritus in Ecology & Evolution, the Committee on Genetics and the College, died of kidney failure Saturday, Oct. 9, in Skokie, Ill. He was 86.

    Born in Manhattan in 1918, Garber spent his 50-plus-year career dedicated to genetic research, teaching and international projects.

    “He worked very nearly up until his death bed,” said colleague Manfred Ruddat, Associate Professor in Ecology & Evolution. Ruddat collaborated with Garber, studying anther smut, a fungal organism that changes the sex expression of the host plant white campion (Silene latifolia).

    Much like Mendel and his famous peas in the 19th century, Garber distinguished many variations of color and shape to understand the genetics of anther smut. “Although we don’t yet know how many chromosomes it has, [Garber] was able to genetically map the organism,” Ruddat said.

    In the mid-1970s, Garber spent a number of summers at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, under the auspices of the U.S.-Israel Bi-National Science Foundation.

    Using a process called electrophoresis, he helped the Israelis genetically identify varieties of prawns that would flourish in brackish water ponds rather than commercial tank fisheries.

    Other Israeli projects included breeding hybrid carp and developing yeast as protein sources for human consumption.

    Also during the mid-1970s, Garber was working here at home with Richard Boyajian of the University Laboratory Schools to develop the human genetics curriculum for the city’s school system. The National Institutes of Health funded the project.

    Garber was awarded a New York state grant that paid part of his tuition to Cornell University, where he graduated in 1940 with a B.S. in botany. Two years later, he earned an M.S. in genetics from the University of Minnesota. He then joined the U.S. Army and served for four years. After his discharge in 1946, Garber went to the University of California-Berkeley under the GI Bill of Rights, and by 1949, he had earned a doctorate in genetics.

    He then worked for several years at the Office of Naval Research in Oakland, Calif., before realizing he wanted to be in an academic setting. In 1953, he joined the Chicago faculty and remained until he retired in 1988, when he became Professor Emeritus.

    As a plant geneticist, Garber wrote more than 150 research papers, reviews and books. His first published work was his 1949 dissertation on the genetics of sorghum, which received the University of California-Berkeley’s John Belling Prize in Genetics the following year.

    In 1982, he was honored with the University’s Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. A decade later, the alumni association of the University’s Biological Sciences Division presented Garber its Gold Key Award, recognizing his service to the division and the University.

    After working together for more than 30 years and collaborating on nearly 20 papers, Ruddat remembers his colleague as a dedicated researcher, teacher and friend.

    Garber served as a team member for the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement, and he served for nearly three decades as co-editor of the International Journal of Plant Sciences (1992-2000), formerly the Botanical Gazette (1974-1992).

    Garber’s enthusiasm for science was evident to his students, many of whom attended his funeral, Ruddat said. “He had an uncanny ability to keep in contact with many of the people who came into his life, which is not always easy.”

    Garber also was a fencing enthusiast and never lost his love of the sport after graduating from Cornell, where he was a member of the fencing team.

    Garber’s wife of 61 years, Rosalie, survives him, as do two daughters, Martha and Jane; a son Joel; and two grandchildren, Becky and Matt.